The FBI investigated darknet child pornography (CP) as part of Operation Pacifier starting in 2013. Between the beginning of the investigation and late 2015, the FBI gained control of several darknet CP sites and forums. PlayPen—one of the largest CP sites on the darknet—hosted 215,000 users at its peak. But PlayPen was only one of many such sites controlled by the FBI. The agency identified suspects across the globe; and one, Alex Glover, just pleaded guilty nine charges that originated from the massive investigation.
Glover, according to the case prosecutor Szilvia Booker, claimed that he only accessed the darknet to find banned Japanese cartoons. However, information from the FBI proved otherwise. After the FBI took control of the websites and investigated users, Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) received usernames and IP addresses of UK pedophiles. NCA officers then traced the IP address to Glover’s Croydon residence. They additionally linked the username “Alex345,” the username of an active CP site visitor, to Glover’s address.
NCA officers raided the man in April 2015 on a nine-count indictment. Glover posed as a 15-year-old girl named “Jess” and “engaged in explicit sexual chats at least ten times.” Additionally, according to Booker, he viewed and downloaded photos and videos from a darknet CP site under the “Alex345” pseudonym. “The images included the most extreme type, such as bestiality and incest,” Booker said. He downloaded images and videos of children “as young as 2-years-old being abused,” she added.
On December 19, Glover pleaded guilty to nine counts of creating indecent images and attempting to engage in sexual activity with a minor. The court noted the significant prison sentence Glover faced. However, Judge Paul Worsley adjourned the sentencing, pending a sexual rehabilitation assessment of the defendant. Judge Worsley planned an evaluation regarding Glover’s chances of successfully completing a sexual offender treatment program.
The judge then warned Glover of the potential prison sentence:
As you must appreciate, the damage in making indecent photographs is that some child somewhere is being trained to behave in an appalling fashion which may well color the rest of their lives. The obvious sentence is one of immediate imprisonment. I’m going to fall back from that today, but you may very well serve a long prison sentence.
Judge Worsley explained that if the treatment did not protect “youngsters” from Glover, a term of imprisonment would be the only solution.
QC prosecutor Szilvia Booker described—to the courtroom—the widespread operation that resulted in Glover’s arrest. “The investigation into Mr. Glover, in fact, arose from unrelated activities,” she said. The case spawned from an ongoing darknet investigation into child abuse by the FBI. The investigation is ongoing and now with NCA support’ she added. “In February 2015, the FBI identified the physical location of servers hosting a [CP website]. They obtained a search warrant, taking over and monitoring the [sites] between February and March.”
Judge Worsley scheduled Glover to reappear for sentencing in early 2017.