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2 Mass. men charged in global child porn ring

By Travis Andersen
Globe Staff / August 4, 2011

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Two Massachusetts men have been arrested and charged in connection with a global online child pornography ring that encouraged users to upload graphic sexual assaults of victims aged 12 and under, officials said.

Rush Frank Blankenship of Westfield is scheduled to plead guilty to federal child pornography charges in September in Louisiana, and David Michael Whitten of Lynn pleaded guilty to a related charge in that state in June, court records show.

Their attorneys did not return messages seeking comment last night. It was not immediately clear yesterday why the court hearings are in Louisiana.

According to the Department of Justice, the men are two of the 72 defendants charged in the United States and abroad who were members of the website Dreamboard, which authorities began investigating in 2009.

Members uploaded images of young children being abused to gain access to the site, authorities said yesterday, and they had to continue posting new content to maintain membership. Users were grouped into tiers based in part on how often they provided content and whether they personally produced the images, according to the Justice Department, and posting violent assaults of children was encouraged.

Users in higher tiers could access more content, authorities said.

Whitten will be sentenced in October and faces a maximum sentence of life imprisonment and a $250,000 fine, records show. He posted three visual files to Dreamboard over two days in November 2009, including one involving an 8-year-old girl, according to court documents.

Details of Blankenship’s indictment and plea agreement were not available yesterday.

Of the 72 defendants, 13 have pleaded guilty and 20 remain at large, according to the Department of Justice.

Suspects have been arrested in 13 other countries including Canada, Kenya, Serbia, and Switzerland, authorities said, and more than 500 users have been targeted.

The Justice Department said the investigation, dubbed Operation Delego, has resulted in the largest prosecution in the United States of users accessing an online bulletin board created for the sole purpose of promoting child sexual abuse.

Travis Andersen can be reached at tandersen@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @TAGlobe.