In an age of ever growing technological devices, it is no surprise that criminals use the internet for their own gain. We’ve all heard about the online scams, the cases of identity theft and fraud, and the money laundering that is committed on the internet daily. But by far the most heinous crime committed using computers is human trafficking and more specifically, sexual victimization of children.
The good news is that as the criminals become more technologically savvy, so do the everyday heroes who fight these crimes. The non-profit organization “Thorn” is at the forefront of the movement to stop sexual predators. Thorn identifies itself and its contributors as “Digital Defenders of Children.” It is made up of a Technology Task Force, which combines the talents, knowledge and resources of over twenty technological industry leaders. Thorn has conducted studies to learn more about the practices of online predators. They have also worked with other non-profit agencies to learn more about how technology is used in sexual trafficking and to study how sexual victimization has been normalized in our culture.
But the beauty of Thorn is that their work goes beyond academics into action. For instance, one of Thorn’s techniques is to identify digital fingerprints of child-sexual-abuse images, and then use these fingerprints to gain clues about the identity of the predators. Thorn has established a text shortcode- BEFREE to help victims contact the authorities in a quick and subtle way that will not be easily identified by their pimps.
Today, Thorn in connection with ICE (Immigration and Customs Enforcement,) has issued an alert regarding a child predator. Investigators in Boston have been trying to identify this “John Doe” who is believed to have helped run one of the largest underground network of child pornography that law enforcement has ever seen.
This investigation, termed “Operation Round Table,” revealed victims in 39 states and six countries including the United States. It is believed that John Doe’s real first name is Shaun, a man between 40 and 50 years old who lives within 100 miles of New Haven, Connecticut. There have been indications that he works in construction management and travels a lot. It is also believed that Shaun has a degree in electrical engineering and construction management. Shaun is well versed in computer programming and may have previously worked in information security or as an IT director.
Shaun is believed to have a family member who lives in Hamburg, Germany, who Shaun plans on visiting this coming spring. Shaun’s victims have ranged in age from under three years old up to 17 years old, with the majority of the victims falling in the 13-15 age range.
Operation Round Table evolved from a previous Homeland Security investigation, termed “Operation Predator,” that was responsible for the arrest of over 10,000 people who had committed crimes against children.
If you have any information about this predator, call the toll-free Homeland Security Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
Many of us have stereotypes about human trafficking that lead us to believe it is only a problem in foreign, poverty-stricken countries. Yet Thorn points out that America is both the largest producer and consumer of child pornography.
It is estimated that there are currently anywhere between 100,000 and 300,000 children in America who are being sexually exploited.
For more information about Thorn and the work that they do, see their website-
If you have any information about the predator known as “Shaun,” call the toll-free Homeland Security Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE.
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