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Two area men nabbed in child porn ring 72 indicted worldwide in crackdown on online swapping of sexual abuse images

Two local men were among 72 people indicted worldwide in connection with a sinister online child pornography ring that promoted sexual abuse of children and was designed to evade detection by law enforcement, top ranking federal officials reported Wednesday.

U.S. Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. and Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano made the announcement in Washington, D.C., unsealing three indictments and a complaint.

The court documents charge six dozen people with participating "in an international criminal network dedicated to the sexual abuse of children and the creation and dissemination of graphic images and videos of child sexual abuse throughout the world," authorities said.

Those arrested included Christopher Luke, 31, of School Street, Town of Tonawanda, and Todd Stumpf, 59, of Fillmore Avenue. Luke was arrested March 30, and Stumpf on July 14. Both men were transferred to Louisiana, where the trial in the case is expected to be held.

"The members of this criminal network shared a demented dream to create the pre-eminent online community for the promotion of child sexual exploitation. But for the children they victimized, this was nothing short of a nightmare," Holder said.

Investigating, arresting and prosecuting child pornography cases remain an important priority locally, according to William J. Hochul Jr., U.S. attorney for the Western District of New York, which includes Buffalo and Rochester.

"This is a horrific crime that can ruin the lives of children and devastate families," Hochul said. "Our office will continue to vigorously work with our law enforcement partners at every level to protect and defend the most vulnerable in our society and bring these predators to justice."

Luke and Stumpf were nabbed as part of an ongoing federal investigation dubbed "Operation Delego" that began in December 2009. The probe targeted the 72 people indicted, along with more than 500 others around the world, federal authorities said.

All are accused of participating in a private, "members only" online bulletin board called "Dreamboard" that promoted pedophilia and encouraged the sexual abuse of young children. The bulletin board was set up -- albeit unsuccessfully -- to avoid detection by authorities.

Federal officials said members of the group traded graphic images and videos of adults molesting children 12 and younger, often violently.

The group amassed a large private library of child sexual abuse images by openly encouraging its members to sexually abuse children and share images of the abuse with other members, authorities allege.

Authorities said 52 arrests had been made in the United States and abroad. All 72 indictments involved charges of conspiring to advertise and distribute child pornography.

Fifty of those indicted also face a charge of engaging in a child pornography enterprise, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

email: tpignataro@buffnews.com