A 30-year-old Wyong man who sparked a nationwide operation into an international child abuse network was yesterday sentenced to 18 years imprisonment by the Gosford District Court.
The man had previously pleaded guilty to 17 offences including sexual touching of a child under 10, committing sexual acts against a child under 10 and possessing, producing and disseminating child abuse material.
Australian Federal Police (AFP) Eastern Command Child Protection Operations officers arrested the man in February 2020 after the AFP-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) received a referral from the United States.
The report from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) contained information on a Snapchat user who was uploading child abuse material.
Enquiries by investigators linked the 30-year-old man to the social media account and a search warrant was executed at his Wyong home in February last year.
Evidence seized during the warrant, including a laptop computer and mobile devices, linked the man to an online network of men across Australia who were sharing child abuse material.
In August 2020 investigators laid an additional 80 charges against the man relating to the abuse of a child known to him, and the sharing of this material online (the previous media release can be found here).
Operation Arkstone has so far charged 20 men with 1,026 offences and identified 53 Australian child victims who have been saved from harm as a result of the digital trail uncovered by AFP investigators at the search warrant in February.
The 30-year-old man received a non-parole period of 12 years.
AFP Federal Agent Scott Veltmeyer said numerous teams in the AFP, with the assistance of State and Territory police and international partners, have been working diligently to identify offenders and victims from each new piece of information that has come to light.
“We’re pleased to have dismantled this network but it is truly heartbreaking that Australia is not immune to this heinous crime,” Federal Agent Veltmeyer said.
“Preventing child exploitation remains a top priority for the AFP, we’ll use whatever means necessary and leverage whatever relationship we can to ensure that those who harm our children are arrested and prosecuted.”