These undated booking photos, taken by the national police in The Netherlands and provided by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, show Robert Mikelsons, who was sentenced in Amsterdam on May 21, 2012, to 18 years in prison for abusing dozens of babies and toddlers. A child pornography investigation, which began when a Massachusetts man sent a photo of a young Dutch boy to an undercover federal agent in Boston, led to the arrests of 43 men in seven countries, including Mikelsons, and helped
DENISE LAVOIE, Associated Press
BOSTON — The men came from different walks of life on two continents: a children's puppeteer in Florida, a hotel manager in Massachusetts, an emergency medical technician in Kansas, a day care worker in the Netherlands. In all, 43 men have been arrested over the past two years in a horrific, far-flung child porn network that unraveled like a sweater with a single loose thread.
In this case, the thread was a stuffed toy bunny.
The bunny, seen in a photo of a half-naked, distraught 18-month-old boy, was used to painstakingly trace a molester to Amsterdam. From there, investigators made one arrest after another of men accused of sexually abusing children, exchanging explicit photos of the attacks and even chatting online about abducting, cooking and eating youngsters.
Authorities have identified more than 140 young victims so far and say there is no end in sight as they pore through hundreds of thousands of images found on the suspects' computers. They are also trying to determine whether the men who talked about murder and cannibalism actually committed such acts or were just sharing twisted fantasies.
The still-widening investigation has been code-named Holitna, after a river in Alaska with many tributaries.
"They are the worst of the worst," said Bruce Foucart, agent in charge of the U.S. Customs and Immigration Enforcement agency's Homeland Security Investigations unit in Boston. "This isn't just a child that's nude and someone's taking pictures of him; this is a child that's being raped by an adult, which is horrific."