police generic 224.88.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Tel Aviv police have arrested 10 men in recent weeks, including a senior media editor and a leading physiologist, on suspicion of using the Internet to lure a 13-year-old boy into having sexual relations with them.
The men cannot yet be identified due to a court-imposed media ban.
Lawyers representing the suspects said the boy had presented himself as an 18-year-old, and claimed their clients had been unaware of the boy's true age. Some suspects have claimed the boy initiated contact with them.
Police located some of the suspects by tracing their Internet IP addresses and chatroom nicknames.
On Wednesday, a 25-year-old alleged member of the pedophile ring was brought before the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court to face charges of sodomy and performing an obscene act on a minor.
Police said members of the ring, whose ages ranged from 24 to 51, had first contacted the boy after seeing his details on a dating site. Two ringleaders, aged 36 and 46, are suspected of having held frequent meetings with the boy, during which they would forcibly sodomize him.
The remaining suspects are believed to have met with the boy on two or three occasions. During some of the meetings, the boy was allegedly offered money and cigarettes in exchange for the acts.
The investigation into the pedophile ring also led to the arrest of a well-known lawyer suspected of possession of dangerous drugs, including 15 grams of cocaine, and of committing obscene acts on another minor in a separate pedophilia case.
Details of the original case first emerged after the boy allegedly sought to bring the meetings with the men to an end.
A relative of the boy then found a letter addressed to the boy's mother, which contained graphic details on the nature of his meetings with members of the ring.
The relative lodged a complaint with police, leading to an intensive investigation.
Officers contacted some of the suspected pedophiles on the chatrooms they frequented in an attempt to organize another meeting, but the suspects turned the offer down.
Internet crimes expert and former National Fraud Unit investigator Dep-Cmdr. (ret.) Boaz Guttman said the suspects' claims of not knowing the boy's real age would likely fail to hold up in court.
"These are excuses that the suspects' lawyers have made to the media. But once police seize computers and obtain digital evidence, a conviction can easily be made," Guttman said.
"Pedophiles can't walk around in parks, because they'll be seen," he added. "The Internet is cheaper than a trip to Thailand."
Guttman explained that on-line pedophiles were employing increasingly sophisticated means to evade the law.
"In the 1990s, pedophiles would exchange images on the Internet freely in open forums. They then moved to closed forums and a credit card ID system. Police forces asked credit card companies like Visa and MasterCard to stop allowing such sites to operate. The pedophiles then initiated a third phase - sending pictures and videos on file-sharing Web sites," Guttman said.
He added that the Israel Police worked closely with Interpol's center for computer crime in Lyon, as well as with Europol, to bring down international pedophile rings operating on the Web. He added that Microsoft had created a system to help monitor and track down on-line pedophile activity.
Within the Israel Police, Guttman said, the Lahav 433 Unit operates an Internet crimes unit from the unit's Lod headquarters, and the Tel Aviv Police also run an effective computer crimes unit.