NEWARK, New Jersey—A Ukrainian man who federal prosecutors said may be the most significant distributor of child pornography ever prosecuted in the United States was charged in New Jersey on Monday with operating a network of websites after being extradited from Thailand.
Maksym Shynkarenko, a 33-year-old from Kharkov, Ukraine, founded and operated a Ukraine-based child pornography website that had customers around the world and has resulted in 560 convictions throughout the US alone, The US attorney’s office for New Jersey said.
A 32-count indictment released Monday against Shynkarenko says he traded in tens of thousands of hardcore pornographic images and videos that depicted children ranging from infants to toddlers and teenagers being graphically sexually assaulted or abused, in most cases by adults.
In some cases, the videos were submitted by customers—later prosecuted—who had filmed themselves actively molesting children, according Paul Fishman, the US attorney for New Jersey.
Operating a network of websites with names including “Illegal.CP,” “’The Sick Child Room,” “’Hottest Childporn Garden,” and “Pedo Heaven,” Shynkarenko allegedly made hundreds of thousands of dollars “effectively selling tickets to the exploitation of children” from 2003 until 2008, Fishman said.
“According to the indictment, Maksym Shynkarenko profited from the unspeakable abuse of thousands of innocent children by selling access to their suffering through his website,” Fishman said. “Distributors and consumers of child pornography create a market for sexual assaults on children, where the victimization of those children is refreshed with every download.”
Shynkarenko is charged with child exploitation enterprise, advertising child pornography, transporting and shipping child pornography, money laundering and other counts.
Prosecutors say Shynkarenko and two co-conspirators from the Ukraine and one from Russia advertized and operated numerous child porn websites and sold access to them to clients worldwide, including customers in New Jersey. They allegedly concealed the charges with innocuous business names, such as “Ad Soft,” which served as fronts to conceal them from credit card companies.
The site warned users that it was “considered illegal in all countries,” advising users to say that someone had stolen their credit card information and used it, if ever questioned by police.
Authorities extradited Shynkarenko from Thailand over the weekend, where he had been in custody since his 2009 arrest during a vacation to that country. Paul Fishman, the US Attorney for the District of New Jersey, said Shynkarenko had been fighting extradition, which delayed the process.
The case is being brought in New Jersey because agents with Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Homeland Security Investigations division first located the site “Illegal.CP” in October 2005 during an investigation of an individual from Long Branch. The agents signed up for the site undercover, purchasing a 20 day subscription for US $79.99.
In addition to the convictions of the 560 American consumers from 47 states, people have been convicted in other countries, federal authorities said. Canada is the only other country prosecutors would name.
Federal authorities says those convicted included teachers, clergy, law enforcement, lawyers, doctors, coaches and others who came in regular contact with minors.
Shynkarenko shuffled into federal court cuffed at the waist and ankles, wearing dark green prison scrubs. About average height and build, he wore glasses, and had close-cropped brown hair with a thin beard and moustache.
Despite the money prosecutors allege that Shynkarenko earned from his enterprise, US District Judge Joseph Dickson determined Monday that he qualified for a public defender and assigned Assistant Public Defender Linda Foster to represent him. She did not comment on the case.
Although a Ukrainian interpreter was sworn in to assist him, Shynkarenko answered a judge’s questions in heavily accented English and affirmed that he understood his rights and the charges against him. He’s scheduled for arraignment on Wednesday.
He could face up to life in prison if convicted on all counts.