At a news conference, Commissioner Thomas Carrique, Detective Inspector David MacDonald – major case Manager from the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch and Inspector Tina Chalk – Manager of the OPP Counter Exploitation and Missing Person Section were joined by Toronto Police Service Staff Superintendent Donald Campbell and Daniel B. Hittner representing the United States Department of Homeland Security Investigations to conclude two investigations.
Beginning in October of 2012 with a complaint to the Toronto Police Service, Project Greenwell became a complex, multi-national criminal investigation that first looked at those who uploaded and downloaded images and video files to what could be called a ‘big box store’ of child pornography, with users in at least 116 different countries. The servers were housed at a business in Toronto known as YesUp Media. A subsequent investigation – Project Blackheath – targeted the operators of the business who knowingly facilitated the sharing of these images for profit. There were 60,000 registered users in at least 116 different countries and at least 19,013 users purchased 30-day premium memberships.
Along with photos of seized data servers and an infographic map (at right), police played a video depicting the global problem presented by the ongoing exploitation of children. Each of those dots represent a town where one or more of the suspected users downloaded child pornography from this Toronto-hosted website.
Detective Inspector MacDonald noted the investigation ‘has taken years of legwork by past and present members of the OPP Criminal Investigation Branch, the Cyber Operations Unit, the Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet and members of the OPP Child Sexual Exploitation Unit.’ He added the RCMP assisted with gaining and sharing information with domestic police services outside of Ontario and with international police agencies while Homeland Security Investigations were most helpful distributing suspect information and conducted 50 investigations in their jurisdiction and arresting multiple child predators.
Precedent-setting Charges Laid
As a result, police have charged five people associated with the operation of YesUp Media with a total of 11 offences. The charges include:
Possession of Child Pornography;
Make Available Child Pornography; and,
Duty to Report to Police per Section 3 of An Act respecting the mandatory reporting of Internet child pornography by persons who provide an Internet service.
Commissioner Carrique praised the commitment of uniform officers, civilian specialists and the years of collaboration leading to these charges.
‘I’m proud of the leadership being demonstrated to address the webhosts and administrators who – in Canada – have a legal duty and a responsibility to respond when they are made aware that illegal content is being trafficked through their infrastructure. Not only have police reduced the number of ‘customers’ who abuse children online, we’ve removed the platform that held their monstrous content.’
Five accused are scheduled to appear at the Ontario Superior Court of Justice at 1000 Finch Avenue West in Toronto on August 1, 2019. They have been released with undertakings from the court, including surrendering their passports, remaining within the province of Ontario, and prohibitions from engaging in a business or enterprise with any party that has been the subject of a complaint with respect to child pornography.
A Canada-Wide Warrant has been issued for the arrest of a resident of Vietnam.
Inspector Chalk took the opportunity to issue a call to action to the public. ‘The fight against child sexual abuse imagery, continues every day in Ontario by hundreds of officers and civilian members. The community has the ability to help, too. For years the OPP has partnered with the Canadian Centre for Child Protection – operators of Cybertip.ca, where anyone can report child sexual abuse imagery on the internet. I encourage everyone to visit www.protectchildren.ca and arm themselves with the knowledge to help detect and prevent the sexual exploitation of children.’