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Kid porn sweep targets Internet

Ashcroft assails 'dark corners of cyberspace'

Associated Press

WASHINGTON -- Federal officials are calling their wide-ranging sweep to break up an Internet-based child pornography ring successful with charges filed against priests, a school bus driver, a preschool worker and at least one police officer

"A new marketplace for child pornography has opened in the dark corners of cyberspace," Attorney General John Ashcroft said. "There will be no free rides on the Internet for those who traffic in child pornography."

The effort targeted three Internet discussion groups on Yahoo's Web site, including one called "Candyman. The police action was called "Operation Candyman."

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Yahoo helped FBI

Bruce J. Gebhardt, FBI executive assistant director for criminal investigations and cyber-crime, said Yahoo executives cooperated with FBI requests for information about the subscribers to the discussions groups.

But Gebhardt declined to say whether he believed Yahoo should have monitored its discussion groups to prevent ones from operating as open exchanges for child pornography.

Organizers of the Candyman group described it online as "for people who love kids. You can post any type of messages you like, too, or any type of pics and vids you like, too. P.S. If we all work together we will have the best group on the Net."

Mike Heimbach, head of the FBI's child crime unit, described the images exchanged on the Candyman group as "very explicit" and "hard-core."

Worked with children

FBI officials in Washington declined to identify by name any of those arrested or charged, except to list the occupations of some they described as "significant perpetrators" because they held jobs where they might spend time with children.

FBI officials in Washington said those people included a Catholic priest in the St. Louis area; a school bus driver in Albany, N.Y.; a preschool teacher's aide in Las Vegas; a child photographer and an unspecified clergy member in Philadelphia; and a police officer in West Virginia under investigation by FBI agents in Pittsburgh.

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In Las Vegas, authorities said Beckham Baker, 23, was indicted Feb. 6 on one charge of receiving child pornography and one charge of possession of child pornography.

Baker, who worked in a southern Nevada day care center, is free pending his next court appearance. FBI Special Agent Gayle Jacobs said authorities moved quickly to arrest Baker because of his job. "Obviously, he needed to be removed from working with children," Jacobs said.

Declined to comment

Reached by telephone Monday at his Las Vegas apartment, Baker said he was seeking to hire a lawyer and declined to comment further.

The school bus driver in New York was identified as Shannon Timothy Macauley, 36, of Constable, near the Canadian border. Macauley was charged by state police in November and December with sodomizing five boys. Another arrest in New York was John J. Schmidt Jr., 51, of Dolgeville, an elementary school teacher, charged in November with receiving child pornography on his home computer from Internet sites.

Schmidt pleaded not guilty. His attorney, Frank Policelli, said he couldn't comment on evidence he still hasn't seen yet or whether the search warrant was valid.

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