Federal authorities say their two-year investigation led to the closure of the so-called "Lost Boy" bulletin board, a members-only password-protected Internet site where defendants would show pictures and video depicting child pornography.
"Let me be clear," said U.S. Attorney Andre Birotte. "We are not talking about innocuous or 'artistic photographs' of naked children on the beach. I am referring to serious graphic images of children that are being sexually exploited."
The victims were boys ranging in ages from 7 to 12 years old. One victim was a 9-year-old boy with Down syndrome. One of the most disturbing finds, according to investigators, was something called the "Handbook Project."
"This handbook served as a guide for adult men that were interested in identifying and grooming boys, essentially convincing or inducing them to engage in sex," said Birotte.
The defendants used screen names like "Undy12," "Bottles&cans," "Harrypotter" and "Mr.Bean," and according to court documents, many were registered sex offenders.
The ring spanned three continents and some of the Lost Boy members were from Southern California, including 53-year-old James Criscione of Los Angeles, who accessed the site through public computers at the library. Criscione died in custody this year while awaiting charges.
Another defendant is Emilio Luna, a Phoenix-based pediatrician who was charged, but fled after being freed on bond. Luna is still at large.
"Another member of the Lost Boy network pleaded guilty and admitted not only that he exchanged child pornography with other men, but that he repeatedly molested a young boy for a period of at least three years," said Birotte.
The Lost Boy group is charged with transportation and possession of child pornography. Defendants are facing a maximum federal prison sentence of at least 20 years.
The investigation is ongoing and authorities hope to track down more members of the Lost Boy group, who right now they only know by their screen names.