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Internet

Alleged porn site raided in Texas

Police arrest the operator of a Web site that authorities say offered sexual material including child pornography.

Police have arrested the operator of a Web site in Texas that authorities say offered sexual material including child pornography.

Bentley Ives, president of Webb World, was charged with possessing child pornography and promoting "obscene" material on the Net. If found guilty, he could face up to 12 years in prison.

Police in Fort Worth, Texas, conducted the raid after an eight-month investigation into Netpics, a subscription-based service run by Webb World that allowed users to download pornographic pictures. Webb World could not be reached for comment today.

The arrest is the first of its kind in Fort Worth, but not in the nation. In December, the FBI conducted 20 searches across the country as part its campaign against child pornography peddlers on the Net, a three-year investigation dubbed Operation Innocent Images.

Some subscribers insist that they never saw child pornography on Netpics, saying that any pedophile material may have been offered without the site's knowledge. They described the site as a Usenet filtering service that redistributed images found in Internet newsgroups.

But police were unequivocal in their allegations, booking, and releasing Ives on Thursday after seizing all of his company's equipment.

"He was selling the service on a Web site. People had to be a member, paying per month to access the service," Fort Worth vice squad Lt. Richard Reflogal said today. "We are looking into pursuing charges against other individuals."

Under Texas law, it is a felony to knowingly possess pornographic pictures, videos, slides, or negatives featuring minors. It is also a misdemeanor to promote or possess "obscene" material, which is defined as "patently offensive sexual acts, normal or perverted, actual, or simulated."

With the Net it is easy to keep records of surfers' activities; such records could possibly be used to arrest subscribers who viewed illegal child porn.

But according to a statement on Webb World's home page, the police are only interested in the company's executives. "For one thing, Netpics did not keep records of what subscribers downloaded," the company stated.

However, Reflogal said the raid was only one step in the investigation. He would not comment on whether subscribers were being investigated.