A tip earlier this year from the United States has led to the uncovering of a major child sex abuse network in Australia with ties to the U.S., Canada, Asia, Europe and New Zealand.
According to The Associated Press, Australian authorities announced Wednesday that 16 men have been arrested in New South Wates, Queensland and Western Australia in recent months on 828 charges of sexually abusing children, producing and distributing child abuse material and bestiality.
Australian Federal Police Assistant Commissioner Justine Gough said that a child care worker and a children’s soccer coach are among those facing charges. Gough added that investigators had identified a total of 46 victims in Australia as young as 16 months and no older than 15 years.
“No child should be subjected to abuse and violence from the people they trust, whether that is a family member, a childcare worker or a soccer coach,” Gough said, according to the AP. “Sadly and heartbreakingly, this has been the case for the victims.”
A total of 18 “matters” have been referred to the U.S., where three men have been arrested in connection to child abuse material, the news service noted.
The investigations resulted from a February tip from the U.S. National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, according to Gough, which warned Australian police that a New South Wales man was uploading child abuse material.
Upon the arrest of a 30-year-old man, authorities reportedly searched his computer, which revealed an online child abuse network with which the man was connected.
Gough said that the pedophile circle used “the regular internet,” as well as the dark web, to connect with each other and share materials.
When contacted by the AP, the Homeland Security Investigations’ representative to Australia, Adam Parks, declined to comment on the three arrests in the United States.
However, he did say there were several ongoing investigations within the country, adding that the child abuse ring was a global network “rooted in Australia.”
This comes as several investigations in recent months have uncovered human trafficking networks across the U.S.
In October, Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) said that a trafficking probe, called Operation Autumn Hope, resulted in 179 arrests and 109 victims rescued. The effort included more than 50 law enforcement agencies and other organizations as part of a mission to end sex trafficking across the state.
In August, Ohio’s Operation Safety Net led to the rescue of 25 children aged 13 to 18 in just three weeks after its launch, according to the U.S. Marshals Office.
That same month, Operation Not Forgotten in Georgia recovered 39 children aged 3 to 17, with nine people arrested at the time.