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Alleged Ukrainian child porn pusher in custody in New Jersey

By Kristina Sgueglia, CNN
updated 10:43 AM EDT, Fri June 15, 2012
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Maksym Shynkarenko, 33, is charged with founding and operating a child porn website
  • Federal prosecutors believe Shynkarenko used servers all over the world
  • He was arrested in 2009 in Thailand and had been fighting extradition to the United States
  • He pleads not guilty to all charges in a 32-count indictment

(CNN) -- After following a cyber trail stemming from an ongoing investigation into possession of child pornography, federal officials in New Jersey said Thursday they now have custody of a Ukrainian man they believe is behind one of the largest international child porn distribution rings.

The probe, which has led to the conviction of more than 560 Americans in 47 states, also brought about the arrest of Maksym Shynkarenko, 33, who is charged with founding and operating a website touting thousands of hardcore sexually explicit images and videos of boys and girls ranging from infants to teenagers, according to Rebekah Carmichael of the U.S. attorney's office in New Jersey.

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Shynkarenko has been slapped with numerous child exploitation charges, including conspiracy, transportation and shipment of child porn, advertising child porn, money laundering, and engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, according to a 32-count indictment.

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He pleaded not guilty to all charges Wednesday in the district court of New Jersey, according to court documents.

"This case itself is the one of the largest we have ever seen. In terms of significance it's enormous," said Andrew McLees, special agent in charge of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit in Newark. "This case is representative of the epidemic of this problem throughout the country and the globe."

He said the actions Shynkarenko is accused of "created a market for exploitation, a market that will lead to more children being victimized."

Carmichael told CNN that Shynkarenko allegedly operated out of Ukraine but used servers all over the world, including in the United States, to house and disseminate the lewd images and videos.

Shynkarenko, who is believed to have co-conspirators, according to Carmichael, was first arrested in January of 2009 in Thailand and had been fighting extradition to the United States until he was brought to Newark this past weekend.

Special agents first uncovered the child pornography hub in 2005 through e-mails recovered from a New Jersey individual, one of the hundreds of people convicted of child-porn-related charges.

According to a news release from the U.S. attorney's office, an undercover immigrations agent who subscribed to the site, dubbed "Illegal.CP," received a disclaimer that warned of the websites' illegality, and encouraged users to claim their credit card information was stolen if questioned by police.

U.S. Attorney Paul Fishman called bringing in Shynkarenko a milestone in an important fight against sexual predators.

"Distributors and consumers of child pornography create a market for sexual assaults on children, where the victimization of those children is refreshed with every download," Fishman said in the news release.

If convicted, Shynkarenko could be sentenced to life in prison.

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