Operation Molto: SA man jailed

Child_Exploitation

This is a joint release between Australian Federal Police and South Australia Police

A 43-year-old South Australian man who tried to procure children for sexual activity and possessed hundreds of child exploitation images and videos has been sentenced to five years' imprisonment.

The man was sentenced by the Adelaide District Court yesterday (4 March 2022) for 11 offences, after police identified him as a result of Operation Molto, a global investigation into offenders using a cloud storage platform to share child abuse material online.

The operation was a result of intelligence provided by New Zealand authorities to the Australian Federal Police-led Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE).

ACCCE officers linked the SA man to an account accessing child abuse material and provided the information to the South Australia Joint Anti Child Exploitation Team - which comprises AFP and South Australia Police officers.

After further inquiries, SA JACET investigators executed a warrant at the man's home in the Barossa Valley in August 2020.

Police found child abuse material on electronic devices, as well as footage of young, clothed girls playing in public, which was covertly recorded by the man.

The 43-year-old was arrested and initially charged with three offences.

After a forensic review of the seized electronic devices, he was charged with further offences including communicating with a child under the age of 16 and grooming them to procure sexual material online.

The man contacted multiple young children online and engaged in conversation with them, asking them to perform sexually suggestive acts on camera for his gratification.

In late 2021, the man pleaded guilty to 11 child abuse-related offences.

AFP Detective Acting Superintendent Brad Lyons said the investigation again showed how closely authorities around the world worked together to combat the exploitation and abuse of children.

"This case should serve as a warning that law enforcement is dedicated to fighting child sexual abuse and bringing those who commit these offences before the court," he said. "If your child is or has been a victim, reassure them that it's not their fault and there is help available - children and young people are never to blame for being a victim of online child sexual exploitation."

The man's five-year sentence has a non-parole period of two years and six months. He has been in custody since his arrest so the sentence was backdated to 14 August 2020 to reflect time served. He will be eligible for parole in February 2023.

The 11 offences to which the man pleaded guilty were:

  • Three counts of using a carriage service to transmit a communication with the intention of procuring the recipient of the communication, a person who is under 16 years of age, to engage in sexual activity, contrary to section 474.26(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • Aggravated produce child exploitation material, contrary to section 63 of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1953 (SA);
  • Possess child exploitation, contrary to section 63A of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1953 (SA);
  • Two counts of aggravated possession of child exploitation material, contrary to section 63A of the Criminal Law Consolidation Act 1953 (SA);
  • Two counts of using a carriage service to access child abuse material, contrary to section 474.22(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • Use a carriage service to access child pornography, contrary to section 474.19(1)(a)(i) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth);
  • Possess child abuse material, held in a computer or contained in a data storage device, accessed or obtained using a carriage service, contrary to section 474.22A(1) of the Criminal Code 1995 (Cth).

The AFP is urging the public to help it solve cold case child abuse investigations through its Stop Child Abuse – Trace an Object initiative. The smallest clue can often help solve a case.

The world-leading initiative, is centred on the publishing of non-confrontational images that can be seen in child exploitation online material such as pieces of clothing or bedding.

Australian investigators believe the images are linked to victims in the Asia Pacific Region, including Australia, and are calling on the community to view the images and make a report at the ACCCE website.

The AFP and its partners are committed to stopping child exploitation and abuse and the ACCCE is at the centre of a collaborative national approach. The ACCCE brings together specialist expertise and skills in a central hub, supporting investigations into child sexual abuse and developing prevention strategies focused on creating a safer online environment.

Members of the public who have information about people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 or report online.

If you know abuse is happening right now or a child is at risk, call police immediately on 000.

If you or someone you know are impacted by child sexual abuse and online exploitation there are support services available. Advice and support for parents and carers about how they can help protect children online can be found at ThinkUKnow, an AFP-led education program designed to prevent online child sexual exploitation.

Media enquiries:

AFP National Media: (02) 5126 9297

If it doesn't add up, speak up. Call the National Security Hotline - 1800 123 400.

Read the AFP Annual Report 2021-22

Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation - visit website

Policing and community news from the AFP