A 29-year-old Wyong man will face an additional 80 child abuse charges after an Australian Federal Police Force operation.
The investigation began in earlier this year after a tip-off from the United States’ National Centre for Missing and Exploited Children to the AFP’s Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).
He was arrested in February for allegedly distributing and receiving child abuse material online, and initially charged with nine offences.
Investigators followed the digital trail from seized electronic materials during the search warrant at his home, to uncover other alleged offenders across Australia and make further arrests, which became Operation Arkstone.
The man appeared before Wyong Local Court yesterday (Tuesday 4 August), and was charged with 80 new offences relating to the abuse of a child known to him, and the sharing of this material online.
The charges were laid as a result of follow-up enquiries by members of the AFP’s Eastern Command Child Protection Operations team, including the forensic examination of material seized during the February warrant at his home.
It will be alleged in court that material on the man’s electronic devices and cloud storage services linked to him provided evidence he was abusing a child known to him, recording it and sharing images or footage online with other like-minded individuals.
The new charges against the Wyong man include:
- 26 counts of Commonwealth charge Section 474.22A(1) Criminal Code Act 1995 Cth) – Possess/control or disseminate Child Abuse Material (CAM) obtained or accessed using a carriage service;
- 12 counts of Section 91H(2) Crimes Act 190 (NSW) – Produce Child Abuse Material;
- 8 count of Section 91G(1)(a) Crimes Act 190 (NSW) – Use child under 14 years for production of CAM;
- One count of section 66DF(a) Crimes Act 190 (NSW) – Sexual Act towards child under 10 years for production of child abuse material;
- 10 counts of Section 66DA(a) Crimes Act 190 (NSW)– Sexual Touching – victim under 10 years;
- One count of Section 66DC(a) Crimes Act 190 (NSW) – Sexual Act towards child under 10 years;
- 22 counts of Section 91H(1) Crimes Act 190 (NSW) – Disseminate CAM.
Operation Arkstone is still ongoing and it is likely further victims and offenders will be identified, and further arrests have not been ruled out.
AFP Eastern Command Child Protection Operations Detective Sergeant Joel Wheeler said this operation serves as a warning to online offenders – the internet does not provide an anonymous veil.
“Operation Arkstone has uncovered this network of alleged offenders thanks to the dedicated work of our investigators, digital forensics specialists and our Interpol-trained victim identification experts,” Detective Sergeant Wheeler said.
“They had to comb hours of disturbing content looking for clues to find these people allegedly preying on Australian children, to bring them to justice.
“We are continuing to try to identify others who are involved in this disturbing network, and hunt them down and unmask them from the anonymity of the internet and put them before the courts.”
Members of the public who have any information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime stoppers on 1800 333 000.