Four men sentenced for child pornography, DOJ says they used bitcoin and Tor to cover their tracks

Four men from across the U.S. and Canada were sentenced to decades in prison for running what the Justice Department called a “highly sophisticated” encrypted underground network for trading child pornography.

The Justice Department said the four convicted men ran a “global child exploitation enterprise” called “The Giftbox Exchange” on the open-source Tor Network, which uses an overlay network for directing internet traffic, obfuscating the details, locations and identities of those using it.

The website was paid for through bitcoin transactions, and the men “used other advanced technological means to thwart law enforcement efforts, including file encryption and cryptography.”

Patrick D. Falte, 29, of Franklin, Tennessee, was sentenced to 35 years in prison for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, three counts of advertising child pornography, and three counts of distributing child pornography. Benjamin A. Faulkner, 28, of Ontario, Canada, was sentenced to 35 years in prison; Andrew R. Leslie, 24, of Middleburg, Florida, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; and Brett A. Bedusek, 35, of Cudahy, Wisconsin, was sentenced to 20 years in prison, for their roles in the scheme.

Three of the men had already been sentenced for child sex crimes, according to the DOJ.

The case was aided by the Justice Department’s Project Safe Childhood, and the Department of Homeland Security’s Investigation and High Technology Investigative Unit, which have been tasked with investigating crimes against children that involve the use of encrypted communications, anonymizers and other sophisticated technologies.

The FBI has increasingly called on technology companies to help break various encryption methods to help find online criminals, including sex offenders. Christopher Wray highlighted several cases at an FBI cybersecurity conference in July in which he said companies helped the bureau find and rescue abused children through their cooperation.

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