5 people charged after investigation into 'big box store' of child pornography in Ontario

Authorities announce details of a years-long investigation into what they describe as an Ontario-based online "big box store" for child pornography.

Online store provided photos, videos of child pornography to thousands around the world, police say

Police say seven years of work went into shutting down an Ontario-based online child pornography store. (Shutterstock)

Five people in the Toronto area have been charged following a seven-year investigation into what police describe as an Ontario-based online "big box store" for child pornography.

The accused in the investigation are the operators of Toronto-based business YesUp Media, which housed the site's servers.

At a Thursday press conference in Vaughan, Ont., provincial police said the accused "knowingly facilitated the sharing of these images for profit."

Content shared in 116 countries

Police allege the online store was providing photos and videos of child pornography to 60,000 paying customers in at least 116 different countries around the world, and about 19,000 people purchased 30-day memberships.

The site was run by a man in Vietnam, who has a Canada-wide warrant issued for his arrest, while the servers were owned by YesUp, which was aware of the content, police allege. 

Police said they seized 32 servers from the Toronto office, with a total capacity of nearly 1,000 terabytes of data.

YesUp Media did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Probe targeted business operators

At the beginning of the investigation in 2012, investigators had focused on those who uploaded and downloaded images. But by 2014, police launched a separate probe, dubbed Project Blackheath, that targeted the operators of the business. The OPP had help from Toronto police, the RCMP and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.

"We took the infrastructure used by the website out of operation," said Det. Insp. David MacDonald. "The OPP is proud of this precedent-setting investigation."

Of the five people charged, three are from Richmond Hill, one is from Aurora and one is from Toronto.

In total, 11 charges were laid, including:

  • Possession of child pornography.
  • Making child pornography available.
  • Failure by an internet service provider to report child pornography to police.

The accused have all been ordered to surrender their passports and are due in court in Toronto on Aug. 1. 

With files from The Canadian Press