Child pornography bust spanning 17 countries leads to 41 arrests

York Regional Police say one warrant executed at a Toronto-area home led to an international child pornography investigation that eventually netted 41 arrests and rescued 19 child victims.

Ontario's York Region police say Project Hydra led to arrests around the world, numerous victims ID’d

Project Hydra led to 41 arrests in 17 countries, Ontario police say 2:53

One warrant executed at a Toronto-area home led to an international child pornography investigation that eventually netted 41 arrests and rescued 19 child victims, York Regional Police say.

York's Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) section, which worked with investigators from the RCMP, FBI and others, said more than 100 charges have been laid in connection with its investigation, dubbed Project Hydra. 

There were 10 arrests made in the Greater Toronto Area, with 26 charges laid. Suspects have also been arrested in 16 other countries thanks to the investigation. Project Hydra also led the RCMP to launch a parallel investigation in New Brunswick, details of which were also released today. 

Insp. Tim Kelly called the yearlong investigation "a true success story," but warned police are always playing catch-up when it comes to tracking down online predators.

Project Hydra began in April 2014 after the National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre told York police that child pornography was being uploaded to the internet from a computer in its jurisdiction.

York Regional Police Insp. Tim Kelly, left, and OPP Det. Staff Sgt. Frank Goldschmidt briefed the media on Project Hydra on Wednesday. (Charlsie Agro/CBC)
Kelly said police went looking for a suspect, but instead found a young victim — he didn't disclose the victim's age or gender — who was being coerced into uploading self-exploitative images to the web.

Police found the images had been uploaded, via cloud storage, to a previously unknown "social networking application" that was being used by people around the world to trade child pornography.

Investigators said they'd seen images of victims ranging in age from infancy to teenage years.

The 19 male and female child victims identified and rescued as part of Project Hydra are aged nine to 15. 

As the investigation grew, York police worked with the RCMP, Ontario Provincial Police, U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI, as well as Interpol.

Kelly said York police sent out 356 information packages to police agencies around the world with information that could be used to make arrests. Suspects were identified in the U.K., Australia and South America.

OPP calls crimes 'monstrous'

Matthew Stentz, the attaché for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations Office in Canada, said the information turned up by York police led to around 100 more investigations in the U.S.

"We will leave no stone unturned," Stentz said.

Ontario Provincial Police Det. Staff Sgt. Frank Goldschmidt said his force sent forensic technicians to assist with the investigation. He called the crimes revealed by Project Hydra "monstrous."

"Every child has the right to be nurtured and the right to be safe," Goldschmidt said.

Police also took the opportunity to warn parents to be vigilant in speaking with their children about the dangers of sharing images online and to report any suspicions immediately.

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