Many blame the Internet for fueling widespread growth in the legal industry of pornography and, subsequently, the highly illegal industry of child pornography. On a micro-timeline, this notion could be debated for years. However, over the past decade it is my argument that the Internet served as the catalyst that encouraged pedophiles to surface to levels of visibility that has allowed some of the most aggressive progress in law enforcement against this dark side of our world. It all started with Investigation Landslide and the massive dent it put in this illegal industry.
The mere occurrence of a complaint sourced from Minnesota ending up in Dallas was the random result of a friendship between the tipster and a postal inspector. The fact that one year earlier the United States Department of Justice had awarded a grant to the Dallas Police Department to house an investigative unit under the Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce Program was a fortunate coincidence. Being aware of the ICAS office within the Dallas Police Department, the original postal inspector presented his finding and asked the local ICAS director to confirm his notion that the Indonesian-hosted photograph could not be prosecuted under US Federal Law. This is where the story turns from coincidence to “meant to be”.
The Dallas Police Department had established an unofficial relationship with several volunteers who worked in the local offices of The Microsoft Corporation. Though the relationship was not officially sponsored by the software giant, who had their own legal problems with the US Department of Justice at the time, the notion of helping local communities was highly encouraged at all levels of the company. When contacted by the Dallas Police Department to confirm the physical location of the offensive photograph, the company responded by volunteering employees.
A software engineer from the company confirmed that the photograph was hosted via an Internet web server based in Indonesia. However, using a program called Web Buddy, the engineer uncovered a noticeable amount of traffic associated with the site hosting the photo that passed through an Internet Service Provider (ISP) based in Ft. Worth, Texas. The ISP was named Landslide Productions. After a lengthy investigation into the offending site, and the discovery of hundreds of other offenses, federal agents raided the Fort Worth-based Landslide Production on September 8, 1999.
Landslide Productions was owned and operated by the husband and wife team of Thomas and Janice Reedy. The crux of the raid was that Landslide Productions was selling subscriptions to a vast menu of child pornography sites across the world. The suspicions were nearly spot-on, as Landslide Productions was selling to a network of content providers who used the established Adult Verification System (AVS) combined with a proprietary payment system called Keyz to access a variety of pornography both legal and illegal.
As reported by British investigative reporter Duncan Campbell in his 2007 report entitled "Operation Ore Flawed by Fraud" , there was a set of complexities that were discovered in Thomas Reedy’s operation. A year earlier, Reedy claims to have discovered irregularly high volumes of stolen credit card transactions coming through his Keyz systems that were being processed by known webmasters and including Pakistani-based Imran Mirza and Brazilian hacker Antonio Francisco Tornisiello.
This posed multiple questions that had to be answered about Landslide’s payment operations. First, was Landslide in the business of selling child pornography subscribtions or was Thomas Reedy a victim himself?
Second, what percentage of the customers in Reedy’s system were simply purchasing legal pornography as opposed to illegal child pornography; and, how many were simply the owners of stolen credit cards?