The Herald Bulletin

Morning Update

Cops, courts and fires

November 22, 2013

Feds: Child porn ring hidden for years; Anderson man among 11 charged

US postal inspectors' investigation led to Vaughn

INDIANAPOLIS — Investigators have busted an international child pornography ring that remained undetected for 12 years by using data encryption technology that one federal prosecutor said Thursday was the best he’d seen in more than 20 years on the job.

A total of 11 men, including 44-year-old Thomas Vaughn of Anderson, have been convicted or are in custody, prosecutors said at a news conference in Indianapolis, where the case was filed in federal court. They are charged with sexually exploiting minors.

Ring members have been charged or are under investigation in Canada, Switzerland and other countries, prosecutors said, although they didn’t say how many foreign suspects.

Nearly 100 children, most of them boys who ranged from toddlers to teens, were exploited by the ring, prosecutors said.

“These defendants engaged in an operation that had one purpose and one purpose only, to promote the abuse and exploitation of our children,” U.S. Attorney Joe Hogsett said.

Members of the ring mostly traded pornography instead of producing it, but at least four members allegedly conspired to produce new videos and images of boys engaging in sex, which then could be distributed to other members of the group, prosecutors said.

One of the defendants, 42-year-old John Rex Powell, of Fort Myers, Fla., is awaiting trial in a separate child porn case involving two Australians accused of making their adopted son sexually available to men around the world. Powell is charged with the sexual exploitation of children and a conspiracy count in that case.

Powell’s involvement in both schemes was key to dismantling the child porn ring described Thursday, Hogsett said.

The ring began operating sometime in 2000 and was shut down in April 2012, but the investigation remained sealed until Thursday, Assistant U.S. Attorney Steve DeBrota said.

U.S. postal inspectors investigating a foreign company selling videotapes were led to individuals in Idaho and Pennsylvania, then to two Indiana men, 61-year-old John Richard Edwards of Indianapolis and Vaughn.

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