WASHINGTON (AP) — A New York man was sentenced Thursday to six years in federal prison for receiving and accessing child pornography, according to the Justice Department.
Kirk Cottom, 45, of Rochester, New York, pleaded guilty in an Omaha, Nebraska courtroom on Aug. 3 to accessing images of child sexual exploitation on a locally-operated website.
Authorities said Cottom accessed the site on what's known as the dark web through a special address entered into Tor, an anonymous online network that helps mask a user's activity.
Cottom's personal computer contained more than 600 images of child exploitation and evidence of significant online history accessing child porn websites.
He is the 19th man convicted as part of an ongoing investigation targeting three child porn websites on Tor.
Tor was originally developed for protecting U.S. Navy communications. A representative didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The three websites had a total of 13,000 members and were dedicated to child sex exploitation, according to a senior Justice Department official who provided details on the cases on condition of anonymity to speak freely. The official showed reporters several screen shots of the sites and users' conversations over message boards. One website included a sidebar of categories advertising preteen boys, "MJB" or male jail bait and a "babies/toddlers" section, as well as areas to request more photos of specific boys or girls.
A rules section included the description of one site as "a communication tool for fellow pedos (pedophiles) to discuss their interests and share content." One rule advised that "bestiality is allowed only if it involves children or jb" (jail bait) and another advises against snuff or gore.
The operator of the websites, Aaron McGrath, was sentenced to 20 years in prison last January, after he was convicted of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise. FBI agents found McGrath in his bedroom on his laptop, in the midst of administering one of the sites when they served the search warrant. They were able to seize the laptop before he closed it and activated its encryption.
The sites hosted thousands of files depicting child sex exploitation images or videos. One site had more than 28,000 files, another 6,000. Users participated in message board conversation that serves as a sort of support group for their activities, discussing the latest popular video and participating in polls.
Among the 18 other men convicted was Timothy Defoggi, then 56, of Gaithersburg, Maryland, who was the acting director of Cybersecurity Operations for the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. He was convicted of engaging in a child exploitation enterprise and accessing with intent to view child pornography and sentenced to 25 years in prison in January.
Last June, Jason Flanary, then 42, of Chicago, Illinois, was sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to engaging in a child exploitation enterprise for traveling to the Philippines and Guam to create child porn images he posted online for others to view.
Wesley Cameron, then 22, of Ashford, Alabama, was sentenced to 15 years in prison last October for offering to produce images of his unborn daughter; his partner was unaware.
A military judge sentenced a 28-year-old staff sergeant to 20 years in prison after he pleaded guilty to engaging in sexual contact, indecent liberties and conduct with a minor and producing and possessing child porn in the only case that didn't get prosecuted in Nebraska. The AP is withholding the name of the man convicted because it could identify the victim.
Justice Department officials estimated that more than half-a-dozen victims were rescued or saved because of the operation.
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