By Eli Senyor (YNet News)
July 31, 2012
An extensive undercover police investigation has exposed a large online pedophile ring operating in Israel.
According to the police, more than 30 suspects have been arrested as part of the investigation, headed by the National Fraud Unit, and described as the first and largest of its kind to ever take place in the country.
The majority of the suspects have no criminal record; and include students, civil servants, a defense establishment official, a former police officer and an agronomist – to name a few.
According to the police, they range in age from 20-57 and reside all over Israel. "We can't put our finger on anything specific and say 'this is the profile,''" a source privy to the investigation said.
Dangers of cyberspace
The investigation was launched in April, after the police were able to recruit an "expert witness" – a pedophile who was arrested and agreed to collaborate with the police.
The suspect provided investigators with certain behavioral codes common in Israel's online pedophilia community, thus enabling them to construct a virtual profile of a 12-year-old girl.
The profile was managed by N., a female soldier serving with the police. She was tasked with maintaining "relationships" with the suspects via chat-rooms and message boards.
The suspects, she said, would offer her anything from clothes and presents to money, to get her to meet them.
The suspects' conversations with the "girl" – which according to the police included explicitly suggestive and sexual language – were documented by the investigators; as were several phone conversations held between N. and the suspects.
"I knew that pedophiles operated online, but I was shocked by how extensive it was," she said. "I told them I was 12 and that I was shy, but it didn’t even deter them. They went to great lengths to try to get me to meet with them. The conversations were very sexual in nature. It was appalling."
The suspects are clearly heard on tapes released by the police as promising N. anything she wanted in exchange for a meeting. "I'm dying to meet you. Maybe we can go somewhere, find a quiet place in the woods," one was taped saying.
Some of the suspects even sent N. photos of themselves in either sexual positions or performing various sexual acts.
After three months of what was described as intense police efforts, and after solid evidence was gathered against over 30 suspects, the police began executing arrest warrants.
Investigators believe that the ring represents only the tip of the iceberg as far as the scope of online pedophilia in Israel.
"We implore parents to take an active interest – and control – over what their children are doing online and who they come in contact with online," Major-General Moti Aderi, of the National Fraud Unit said. "Cyberspace is a dangerous place."