Twenty-three women and a 43-year-old man were charged Friday with child pornography offenses in what investigators say is a unique case because of the number of female suspects.
Charges filed with the Falun district court in central Sweden say the women, aged between 38 and 70, received scores of sexually explicit video clips and photographs of children from the man, who is the main suspect in the case, and discussed them with him online in graphic detail.
The material included girls and boys of all ages, from toddlers to teenagers, prosecutor Niclas Eltenius told The Associated Press.
The man was charged with aggravated child pornography, a crime punishable with up to six years in prison, while the women faced a lesser charge that would result in a conditional sentence or a maximum of two years in prison, Eltenius said.
Defense lawyers representing two of the female suspects declined to comment.
Police didn't release the names of the suspects in line with Swedish privacy rules.
Eltenius said the man made contact on the Internet with hundreds of women across Sweden. Those charged stayed in contact with him even after he started sending them child pornography, downloading the material and discussing it online with him.
"They expressed themselves in positive terms about the images. And they shared sexual fantasies about the children," Eltenius said.
Most of the women have admitted to receiving the material, but say they "wrote things that they thought he wanted to hear in order to remain in contact with him," Eltenius told AP.
Some of the women are suspected of passing the material on to others. Two of them are also accused of taking pictures of children in their surroundings and sending them to the main suspect.
No money was exchanged and the women were not coerced in any way, Eltenius said. He added that the man met and had sexual relations with about half the women accused, who had no contact with each other.
Detective Bjorn Sellstrom said he believed it was the first child pornography case worldwide to involve so many women.
"The biggest reaction we've had is from Interpol, who says this is a unique case, not seen anywhere else," he said.
Associated Press writer Karl Ritter in Stockholm contributed to this report.
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