Two Ottawa men among more than 150 arrested in international child pornography investigation
Published Thursday, April 12, 2018 3:49PM EDT Last Updated Thursday, April 12, 2018 4:44PM EDT
16 Canadians have been identified in this investigation, dubbed 'Project Mercury.'
Two Ottawa men were arrested as part of an international investigation into the online sexual abuse of children.
In a disturbing cased dubbed "Project Mercury", police detailed today how offenders were live-streaming the abuse with participants encouraged to comment.
This was an investigation that spread to several corners of this world.
Altogether, 153 people were arrested, including 16 Canadians
“You will hear some disturbing things in this press conference,” explained Toronto Police Service Staff Superintendent Myron Demkiw, as they outlined the details of a 3-year, multi-organizational probe into on-line child pornography.
It is an unusual warning from police but then again, these details were particularly disturbing: children as young as 10 months old sexually abused on-line in live feeds as dozens of others watched on computers around the world, commenting and encouraging.
“It's important that people understand this is happening to children all around the world,” said Demkiw, “that they are not just being sexually abused, but there are permanent recordings being distributed around world for the sick perversion of these individuals.”
The investigation started in July of 2015, when Toronto police, tipped off by a crime agency in the UK, saw the abuse of a 6-year-old, live over the internet.
“During the abuse, users were commenting on it,” said Detective-Constable Janelle Blackadar with Toronto Police Services, “while they were directing the abuser. Unfortunately, this this wasn't first time this happened but I can tell you it was the last.” The abuser was arrested and the child rescued.
In total, 153 people have now been charged, including 16 Canadians and two from Ottawa: 35-year-old Michael Longbone and 38-year-old Luc Berthelot.
Acting Inspector Francois D'Aoust with the Ottawa Police explains the arrests in Ottawa took place two years ago, “In February and March of 2016, residential search warrants were conducted at both residences of the two suspects and following that, they were arrested for possession, accessing and making child pornography.”
D’Aoust says the two Ottawa men have already been through the court system and convicted; Longbone to 4 years and Berthelot to 6 months. He is already back out.
Police say many of these offenders were in positions of trust; they were teachers, doctors, a priest and a nurse. They even prevented a child from being adopted by his abuser, explains Graham Ellis, from the National Crime Agency in the UK, “Children are at the centre of everything we do and the relationships built here means we can safeguard the most vulnerable regardless of boundaries.”
Police know, however, their work is far from done. They are encouraging offenders to seek help and letting victims know their voice is important and is being heard.
Speaking to the media in Toronto, Thursday, Melissa Ruiz, Attaché for U.S. Homeland Security Investigations in Ottawa said international investigations like this will continue.
“If you’re a predator, know that we will find you, arrest you, and ensure that you will face the full weight of the law.”