LYON, France (AP) – French police have arrested 61 people suspected of being involved in a massive child pornography ring, including at least three people who raped children on camera, officials said Thursday.
Among the suspects, several hold jobs that put them in contact with children, such as teachers, religious leaders and city hall officials, according to Eric Bérot, the French police chief in charge of the operation.
They were arrested in coordinated operations in 30 regions of France between Monday and Thursday, based on months of investigation into child pornography shared on peer-to-peer networks online, Berot told the ‘Associated Press. French investigators specializing in online crime have spotted exchanges of child pornography files using software from an American non-profit company, Child Rescue Coalition.
French police have seized hundreds of hard drives, computers, tablets and USB drives in numerous searches, and investigators are still sorting through the images and data, Berot said.
Among the suspects are a sports teacher who filmed children in locker rooms and a computer scientist who admitted to investigators that he had regularly raped his 14-year-old daughter since she was nine, Berot said. At the suspect’s home, police found more than 110,000 images and 2,000 criminal videos. Three other suspects were seen on camera raping children, he said.
“These arrests concern everyone, all trades, all social classes, from traders to managers, from white-collar workers to blue-collar workers, of all ages, from 28 to 75 years old, from all family situations, single people, couples, with or without children, ”said Bérot.
Sixty of the suspects are men and one is a woman accused of watching the videos with her partner.
Of the 61 people arrested, 13 had a criminal record and were on the National Register of Sex Offenders. About sixty prosecutors are currently investigating each case.