updated 10/4/2007 7:46:21 PM ET 2007-10-04T23:46:21

More than three dozen people in New Jersey have been charged with sending child rape photos and videos over the Internet, officials said Thursday.

The arrests cap a two-month investigation in which a state police technology investigations unit combed the Internet for New Jerseyans who distributed such images. Forty-one people were arrested.

Officials said the photos and videos have been made available worldwide.

“Many who have sexually assaulted children started down that road with child porn,” State Police Superintendent Rick Fuentes said. “This operation places a roadblock in their path.”

10-day operation
The investigation, dubbed Operation Silent Shield, encompassed 15 of New Jersey’s 21 counties and numerous law enforcement agencies. The arrests began 10 days ago and continued through Thursday, state police said.

The 41 people, who range in age from 14 to 71, were charged with child pornography possession and distribution and face 18 months to 10 years in jail. They have jobs ranging from elevator repairman to car salesman to security guard to landscaper to deli owner to auto mechanic. A Woodbridge man who was arrested was a referee for girls high school volleyball, state police said.

No one has been charged with creating the images and videos, though state Attorney General Anne Milgram said the investigation is continuing. She said officials will scour thousands of DVDs and more than 80 videotapes confiscated during the arrests.

Milgram said the videos last up to 15 minutes and feature children estimated to range in age from 4 to 9 years.

She said officials have identified some children involved. She declined to discuss any details about the children but said the images are disturbing.

“It is impossible to sleep at night when you view them,” Milgram said. “They are a horrific thing.”

The arrests come as police and the FBI conduct a nationwide manhunt for Chester Arthur Stiles, 37, who police allege videotaped himself raping a 3-year-old Las Vegas girl. That tape recently surfaced and made headlines, but New Jersey officials said their investigation began in August.

Many are members of MySpace, Facebook
Many of the suspects were members of popular social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook, authorities said.

Milgram on Tuesday issued a subpoena to Facebook.com seeking information on whether convicted New Jersey sex offenders have profiles on the social networking site.

The subpoena is similar to one issued earlier this year to MySpace.com, which identified 268 New Jersey registered sex offenders with MySpace accounts.

Milgram last week said six social networking sites — myYearbook.com, BlackPlanet.com, MiGente.com, AsianAve.com, GLEE.com and FaithBase.com — have agreed to use a new “Report Abuse!” icon designed to allow users to quickly report inappropriate activities. Milgram has also invited MySpace and Facebook to join the initiative.

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