WASHINGTON -- Ten Americans and six foreigners were charged Friday with taking sexually explicit photographs of their own children or children in their care and sending them over the Internet to an international child pornography ring, the U.S. Customs Service said.
Forty-five children, including 37 in the United States, were victims and have been removed from the care of those indicted, Customs officials said. Most of them are in the custody of another parent or relative.
The defendants include nine people from seven states who were indicted in Fresno, Calif., along with six residents of Denmark, Switzerland and the Netherlands.
The indictment alleges that members of the ring, referring to themselves as "the club," traded messages across the Internet requesting photographs of specific sexual poses. One man asked for an audiotape so he could hear a child crying while being spanked, the indictment said, and another posed naked with an underage girl.
The Customs Service coordinated the U.S. investigation that began last November with a request for help from the Danish National Police, who were acting on a tip about an international child pornography ring.
"I congratulate the investigators whose ingenuity and perseverance brought these people to justice," Customs Commissioner Robert C. Bonner said in a statement.
The Americans charged include: Lloyd Alan Emmerson of Fresno County, Calif.; Paul Whitmore and Brooke Rowland, San Diego County, Calif.; Tracy Reynolds, Texas; Leslie Peter Bowcut, Idaho; Michael David Harland, Florida; Harry Eldon Tschernetzki, Washington state; John Zill, South Carolina; Craig Davidson, Kansas. The identity of the tenth American was not immediately available.
The foreigners were identified as Eggert Jensen and Bente Jensen of Denmark; Jean-Michael Frances Cattin, Marcel Egli and Peter Althaus of Switzerland; and Dirk-Jan Prins of the Netherlands.
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