By Joseph Ax
NEW YORK (Reuters) - A corporate lawyer, an architect and at least two dozen others were arrested when police smashed a child pornography ring that traded images of sexual assault "the way others trade baseball cards," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said on Tuesday.
Children as young as one year old were depicted being raped and sexually abused in tens of thousands of photographs and videos seized at the culmination of the five-month investigation, Vance said at a press conference.
"These images are not pornography...These images are babies and children and toddlers being raped and sexually exploited," Vance said.
"These images were disseminated on the internet, feeding the appetites of pedophiles seeking new victims," he said.
The defendants all reside in New York City. Almost all were charged with both promoting and possessing a sexual performance by a child, each a felony. They range in age from 18 to 63, and hold a variety of jobs from a corporate attorney to a children's shoe store worker to a dishwasher at a restaurant that caters to children.
The arrests took place over the last few months, Vance said.
In many cases, their professions brought them into close contact with children, as in the case of Joshua Ruiz, a substitute teacher who was arraigned in state Supreme Court on Tuesday morning.
In addition to seeking out videos of abuse, according to prosecutors, Ruiz allegedly had asked others online for advice on how to meet children.
Another defendant, Glen Barfield, an out-of-work architect, had chatted with a boy who lived in Canada, and had allegedly shared videos with him of other children being assaulted, Vance said.
The district attorney described the contents of a few of the images, which included a three-year-old being raped in a bathtub and an infant being ejaculated upon.
The investigation was undertaken by the Cybercrime and Identity Theft bureau of the district attorney's office, in coordination with federal agents from the Immigration and Customs Enforcement Homeland Security Investigations' Child Exploitation Group.
The images will be shared with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, whose Child Victim Identification Program assists law enforcement in locating unidentified child abuse victims, Vance said.
(Editing by Barbara Goldberg and Peter Bohan)