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back to article Credit card fraud fears cloud Operation Ore

Many of the child abuse download suspects snared in Operation Ore may have been innocent victims of credit card fraud, according to a BBC investigation. Operation Ore, the UK’s biggest ever child pornography investigation, involved the prosecution of 2,000 suspects among 7,000 Brits whose credit cards were used to pay for …


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Operation Ore Fiasco

Jim Gamble smugly said “90 per cent of arrested suspects in the investigation pleaded guilty when confronted by the evidence against them. “That’s people who – the allegation has been levelled against them, the evidence has been collected and they, at court or through accepting an adult caution, which 600-plus of them did, have said I am guilty of this offence,” he told the BBC. “That’s not about credit card fraud.”
But what he doesn’t mention is that when someone’s given a choice between admitting to something they didn’t do and taking a caution or spending the next couple of years with the stress of a pending court case, large legal bills, having their name plastered across the papers with the subsequent damage to their reputations (“ooh, there’s no smoke without fire”!) and the possible ruination of their careers or destruction of their family life, many will consider the caution to be the lesser of to evils *EVEN WHEN* they are entirely innocent.
And that doesn’t include the 39 people who couldn’t take the stress and committed suicide such as Commodore David White who took his own life after being suspended by the Navy.
The inquest into his death heard that computer equipment and a camera memory chip belonging to Commodore White had yielded no evidence that he downloaded child pornography, and a letter was written by Ministry of Defence police to Naval Command on 5 January this year indicating that there were “no substantive criminal offences” to warrant pressing charges.
Bravo, Mr Gamble.
For more about the fiaso that was Operation Ore see http://www.inquisition21.com/

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Anonymous Coward

Stupid Reporting

This, and all the other reports all over the media are just media completely missing the point, 7000 may have been found in the uk from their credit card transactions, but the fact 2000 were then prosecuted means the fraud and suchlike were weeded out, and the 2000 were the ones where they found evidence on the peoples machines of the material.
This is why the police justifiably say the operation is a sucess, as 90% of those they prosecuted pleading guilty in the face of all the evidence shows.
The person arrested in this story was never charged or convicted, merely investigated. Imagine he had gone on to rape or murder a child, and it came out police knew about him long ago from these records, there would be uproar. You cant have it both ways. People need to accept this fact.

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Thats 600 people who succumed to intimidation by our police state.

When confronted with the choice of accepting a caution in private, or, facing lengthy and public court procedings where you will be identified to the general public as a “pediatrition”.
What would you do?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Stupid Reporting

Of course if a few of the 5000 not prosecuted have lives ruined by mere fact of being investigated on flimsy evidence – that is obviously OK because it is done by the state – especially if it stops one “perpetrator” in the future
Except some of us look at it and wonder whether the state is any better than the people it prosecutes

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This post has been deleted by a moderator

Yet another …

… example of poeple being guilty by accusation. Things have gone too far in this country towards having to prove innocence, what happened to being innocent unless proven guilty ?

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Anonymous Coward

Re: Re: Stupid Reporting

Its always going to be a case of where you draw the line. They’re not setting out to ruin peoples lives, its their job to investigate.
Its very easy to say its all their fault, but in reality, what can they do? I’m sure if there was a perfect way you could give them to catch everyone and harm no-one, im sure they’d very much like to hear and use it. Unfortunately this isnt a perfect world. And thus its very easy to criticise others without actually giving a large list of practical alternatives with no downsides.

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Anonymous Coward

Ore was a fishing exercise

I am one of those convicted under Operation Ore, and the public doesn’t know the half of it.
The police weren’t given a list of names of men who had “purchased child pornography with credit cards”, the police were given a list of UK credit card holders whose cards had been used to sign up to 2 adult portals owned by Landslide Productions (AVS.COM & KEYZ.COM) which at their peaks had over 5600 websites affiliated to them, of which 12 have subsequently been shown to have possibly contained child pornography. The police in the UK went to magistrates courts and obtained search warrants on the basis that they “had evidence which indicated suspects had purchased child pornography using credit cards”. An analogy to this would be if someone set up a scheme where for a fee you could get a card which gave you access to every nightclub in UK for free and the police subsequently obtained the details of all the members of that scheme and went to court to get search warrants for drugs on the basis that drugs were available in some of the nightclubs and so anyone who joined the scheme must be buying drugs.
Once the police had obtained their search warrants, very few of the people convicted under Operation Ore were prosecuted on anything based on the original Landslide Produtions websites, the police used the list as one massive fishing trip. Some were convicted based on the Landslide Productions websites, I met another “Oree” who had actually disposed of the computer he had owned when he was accessing AVS.COM (because the computer had broken down) and had never visited any other porn sites with the computer he owned at the time he was raided, and so the police found no porn of any sort on his computer. He was convicted of making indecent images of a minor on the basis that the police said he had accessed the AVS.COM website and on the front page was a banner ad which contained a category 3 indecent image of a minor, and he must have knowingly or unknowingly downloaded that image when the banner loaded. He was sentenced to a 3 year community rehabilitation order, attendance at a sex offenders therapy group (where I met him) and 5 years on the sex offenders register. It has subsequently been proved in other Operation Ore cases that the banner ad the police convicted this guy on never actually existed on the AVS.COM website.
The majority of the police officers investigating Operation Ore had no knowledge at all of computers or the internet, my case officer for example had never heard of newsgroups and when he tried showing me a video file on CD relating to one of my charges, I had to show him how to access it. Then there was the police “expert witness” from the Hi Tech Crime Unit who swore under oath in court that using a 56K modem and a quad speed non-Burnproof CD writer I had downloaded files from the internet and burned them directly to CD bypassing the hard drive in my computer.

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RE Stupid Reporting. You aren’t in possession of the facts…

I’ve just spent a few minutes trawling the online archives of the “Evesham Journal”, as I recalled an Operation Ore case reported in it that disturbed me at the time (2004). I quote from the last of several articles about the case;
“Michael Aspinall, defending, said there was no suggestion in *****ley’s case that pictures of the worst kind had been downloaded.
*****ley, of *******ley Road, ******ter, had denied inciting the distribution or showing of indecent pictures of children in 1999.
He was arrested after Operation Ore which was a crackdown on people who had accessed child porn sites in America. *****ley’s name, address and credit card details were discovered.
A check on his credit card statements showed that two bills from the agency which collected the porn site payments had been paid.
*****ley told the jury that he had paid these without enquiring what they were. He alleged that his personal details could have been put into the porn site system by someone else.
But prosecutor Joanathon Gosling said it was impossible to access the sites by accident and there was always acknowledgment sent to the person logging on.
*****ley changed his laptop computer in 2000 and no images were found on the hard drive or on three other computers at his home.”
That’s *no images*. The entire evidence, as reported, was two low-value transactions on a pair of credit cards which went unchallenged. If you search for the articles you’ll find more, including a Constable pretending technical knowlege in court…
Now, in balance, I have to say that the same period reveals some reports that look much more like clear guilt, and others that are more troubling and ambiguous, but to say that all those found guilty (or especially “accepting a caution”) were in possession of child porn is just plain wrong.
PS If it isn’t clear, I’ve lightly anonymised this posting, apart from the apparently feeble-minded defence lawyer’s name. Your client hadn’t downloaded *anything* you drip…

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Anonymous Coward

It’s about the career ladder, stupid!

“They’re not setting out to ruin peoples lives, its their job to investigate.”
Yes, and it doesn’t matter a whit to any one of the “investigators” if the people they are investigating are guilty or not. All they care about is getting another rung up on the career ladder. What could it possibly matter to them, that thousands of innocent people may have had their lives ruined, and that a few score are dead, as long as they get an extra 300 Pounds Sterling annually?
There are ways to determine guilt when you have the server records in hand that don’t involve confronting the owner of the credit card – like for example, if the IP records indicate that the files were downloaded to a computer in Romania, but the credit card data points to a UK resident, it’s a bit odd that he traveled halfway across Europe every few hours to get a few files, isn’t it?
But never mind, The investigators will get their promotions, and that’s all that matters.
And the real kiddie porn customers are probably laughing themselves silly as they watch their neighbors taking the fall for them, all unknowing.

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Anonymous Coward

For the sake of a little extra effort…

…a lot of innocent people could have been weeded from this list *before* the dawn raids started.
A particularly galling bit from tonight’s programme: here’s the record for your credit card transaction; that was made from a computer in (tappity tap) Brazil. On a Friday morning when the accused was at work in the UK.
No local plod is going to know what an IP address even is, let alone how to find out which country it’s in. Stuff like that should really have been checked when the list was being compiled in the first place, not left to individual investigations, and certainly not raised as an afterthought after people have been erroneously run through the mill.

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Anonymous Coward

Jim Bates, Jim Gamble, Sharon Girling et all

Jim Bates, who expoosed some of ore’s shortcomings is now being prosecuted for a minor misnomer, yet the director and officers that still make up CEOP have as much IT knowledge as I have of speaking mandarin, and that’s only that I can match the menu numbers. This is another public declaration before the facts were clear, like the 2.5bn olympics that are now 8bn and rising, leave the publicity till you know the facts. Ore caused a lot of people to take the caution, some who did still had their lives ruined as employers get informed of the “caution”. I work still in supporting these people IT wise and some cant even add attatchments to email without calling the helpdesk, yet they stand in court claimimg to be “experts” after a 2 day course with no practical hands on training.

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