- The Washington Times - Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Austrian law-enforcement authorities, working on information provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, have served search warrants at 120 locations during the past few days targeting 96 suspected child-pornography violators.

Investigators seized computers, disks and other documents in an ongoing ICE undercover investigation known as Operation Predator.

ICE spokeswoman Jamie Zuieback said Austria’s Federal Bureau of Criminal Investigations — the Austrian Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) — is working in conjunction with local Austrian police agencies to pursue leads provided by ICE’s attache in Vienna.

BKA’s enforcement action, she said, grew out of an ongoing ICE investigation of the Internet billing company RegPay in Minsk, Belarus. It was targeted in 2003 and charged in January 2004 with money laundering, as well as providing credit card billing services for 50 child pornography Web sites worldwide and operating child-porn Web sites.

The president and technical administrator of RegPay pleaded guilty in March in federal court in Newark, N.J., to operating an international child-pornography and money-laundering ring. Yahor Zalatarou, 26, and Aliaksandr Boika, 30, both of Minsk, brought to nine the number of guilty pleas in the government’s case against the firm and its associates.

Zalatarou pleaded guilty to conspiracy to transport and ship via computer visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Boika pleaded guilty to conspiracy to advertise child pornography. Both pleaded guilty to conspiracy to commit money laundering.

Alexei Buchnev, another Belarusian and RegPay official named in a superseding indictment, pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to transport and ship by computer visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

Ms. Zuieback said RegPay ran a global Internet pornography business with thousands of paid memberships to dozens of Web sites featuring children. She said the company earned millions of dollars by processing credit card fees for more than 50 other Web sites.

The company officials also admitted to conspiring in a money-laundering scheme with a Fort Lauderdale, Fla., credit card billing service, Connections USA Inc., to receive the RegPay membership fees. Connections USA and two of its officers, Eugene Valentine and Keith Czarnecki, pleaded guilty to money-laundering charges.

Ms. Zuieback said that having dismantled the leadership of the Belarusian enterprise, ICE agents in domestic offices and 52 attache offices worldwide turned their focus to those who purchased child-porn subscriptions from the Minsk sites in the United States and overseas.

More than 1,200 people, she said, have been arrested worldwide in the investigation, including 235 in the United States.

?Operation Predator draws on ICE’s unique investigative and enforcement authorities to safeguard children from foreign national pedophiles, human traffickers, international sex tourists and individuals who trade in child pornography,? Ms. Zuieback said, noting that the agency has arrested more than 5,800 people in the United States since 2003.

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