Robert Merz – Repeat Sex Offender – Busted for Child Porn Ring

Merz had two prior convictions for the molestation of two young girls on separate occasions.

A Philadelphia man was convicted yesterday on charges that he advertised child pornography on the Internet, the first such case in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania, U.S. Attorney Laurie Magid said.

Robert Merz, 45, was convicted of advertising, receiving, transporting, and possessing child pornography, Magid said in a news release.

According to Magid, Merz operated a child-pornography message board titled “My Kingdom.” He placed a notice and advertisement on the board explaining the forum’s rules and purpose and the general content of the pictures of the children to be posted. The online group had members from around the world chosen by Merz, Magid said.

According to court records, Merz is “a self-admitted pedophile” and spent about a decade in prison for convictions related to molestation.

investigators testified at trial that Merz created and administered an online group that was dedicated to trading images and videos depicting the sexual abuse of minors. The online group had members from around the world who were handpicked by Merz. The group could only be accessed via a password and was established not only to trade images and videos of minors, but also so members could talk about their common sexual interest in children.

“Mr. Merz, simply by using the Internet, collected and distributed hundreds of thousands of images and videos of some of the most horrific and unimaginable criminal acts committed against children,” said Assistant Attorney General of the Criminal Division Lanny A. Breuer. “These images aren’t just abstract representations. They are depictions of real crimes committed against those who are most deserving or our protection.”

The identification of this online group resulted from Operation “Joint Hammer,” the U.S. component of “Operation Koala,” an ongoing global operation targeting transnational rings of child pornographers that was initiated by Europol and Eurojust, and involved 28 countries.

Testimony at Merz’s trial revealed that this conviction was not his first related to child exploitation. Pennsylvania law enforcement established that Merz had two prior convictions for the molestation of two young girls on separate occasions.

Sentencing has been set for July 13, 2009. At sentencing, Merz will face a mandatory minimum of 35 years and up to life in prison as well as the possibility of a lifetime period of supervised release if he does not receive a life sentence. He will also face a fine up to $250,000.

“25% of all sex offenders re-offend within 15 years”
………Sarah Tofte

Boy Scout Leader tied to global child porn ring

A volunteer Big Brother who works for a school board in Peel Region is one of nine people charged in connection with a global child pornography ring.

The man, a former Boy Scout leader, will be identified today when representatives from several police forces hold a joint press conference to talk about alleged Canadian involvement in a worldwide operation.

Those arrested are alleged to have purchased child porn videos, sometimes tailor-made for Internet customers. They were identified during an international investigation known as “Operation Koala.”

The Canadian arrests are only now being made public. However, charges laid against more than 92 people in Europe were disclosed in November following the arrest of the videographer who was alleged to be at the centre of the network.

Police identified the man as Marzola Sergio, 42, an Italian citizen who they say produced the abusive material mainly in Ukraine. Some material, however, was filmed in Belgium and the Netherlands.

The video producer allegedly visited homes where parents allowed their children to be filmed being raped, sometimes with the parents’ involvement, or where children were forced to pose with other children or alone, said a Canadian police source.

Internet customers could arrange for the child victims to say the customer’s name during the abuse, pose in a certain way, even wear lingerie purchased by the customer to be worn during filming, said Europol, the European Union’s police unit based in the Hague.

At today’s news conference, officers from several agencies including Peel Regional Police, the Ontario Provincial Police, the RCMP, Europol and the military’s Canadian Forces National Investigation Services will outline the charges.

Nine Canadians arrested in int’l child porn probe

Nine Canadians have been arrested as part of an international child pornography ring that provided “custom-made” sex abuse videos, authorities said Tuesday.

About 90 other Canadians are being investigated in the same international probe.

Among those arrested are a scout leader from Ontario and a Vancouver resident who allegedly positioned a telescope in his home to overlook a neighbouring school yard.

Details of the international probe “Operation Koala” were released at a news conference in Ottawa Tuesday morning.

Europol, who is heading the investigation, contacted Canadian authorities in 2007 to let them know they found about 600 Internet addresses linked to Canada.

Canadian authorities narrowed the list down to 98 individuals.

“The evidence indicates that those in possession of this material did not find it accidentally,” said RCMP Supt. Earla Kim McColl in charge of Canada’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre.

“They sought it out. They previewed the samples. They paid in advance and they waited for a password to download the videos,” she said.

Not all Canadian customers have been identified, a Canadian official said but the investigation is continuing.

In Canada, 18 law agencies, seven provinces, and 40 cities and municipalities were involved in the investigation.

In Ontario, four people have been arrested in connection with the investigation, according to Ontario Provincial Police Insp. Andy Stewart.

The most recent arrest was made in Ontario’s Peel region where a suspect was charged two weeks ago.

The suspect works in the community as a Big Brother to local children.

However, there are no accusations the suspect had any inappropriate relations with children.

He and three other suspects in Ontario have been charged with accessing and possessing child pornography. It was not immediately known if the other suspects worked with children as well.

According to a Europol news release issued in November, customers of the site had the option of interacting with the children that appeared on camera. They could buy them lingerie to wear or have them say the customer’s name. A customer could also opt to be in the video.

At the news conference Tuesday, European officials said one customer paid extra to have the child call him on the phone during the photo shoot.

Europol also alleged the lingerie the young girls were wearing were auctioned off to the highest bidder.

“We are not aware of any Ontario suspect involved in that capacity,” Stewart told Tuesday morning before the news conference.

Stewart, the manager of the child pornography section of the OPP, said he doesn’t expect to make any other arrests in Ontario regarding the case. However, he said there are still several addresses that have come up that are under investigation.

He also said Canadian officials didn’t take part in the earlier news conference because they were still investigating the role Canadians played in the international probe.

“Most of the cases are tied up now,” he said. “We’re in a better position to speak about it.”

Operation Koala

According to Europol, most of the material was produced in the Ukraine in a private studio. Others were produced in Belgium and the Netherlands

Europol officials were tipped off to the production ring after coming across a child abuse video in Australia. Their investigation led them to an Italian national whom authorities allege is the sole producer of the offensive material.

Police allege the 42-year-old man sold over 150 self-made videos of underage girls. One video showed a father abusing his two daughters, aged nine and 11.

The website reportedly had 2,500 customers from 19 countries.

So far, 23 child victims between the ages of nine and 16 have been identified.

“Among those arrested were several persons working in trusted positions, such as school teachers and swimming instructors,” the Europol news release said.

“Thousands of computers, videos and photographs were seized,” it continued to say. “In a large number of cases, more than a million files and pictures were found.”

Canada’s Minister of Public Safety Stockwell Day released a statement saying the country remains committed to fighting child abuse and exploitation.

“We will continue to work with our domestic and international partners to address this terrible crime,” he said in the statement. “In Budget 2007, we invested $6 million to help protect children from online predators and to combat human trafficking.

“We will continue to extend our full support to Operation Koala and other similar investigations that help bring those who sexually abuse children to justice.”

Published in: on January 15, 2008 at 8:02 pm  Leave a Comment