updated 1/16/2004 3:52:29 PM ET 2004-01-16T20:52:29

Two companies in Belarus and Florida have been charged with laundering profits from child pornography Web sites, and more than 40 people in the United States have been charged with downloading the material.

Regpay Co. Ltd., a credit card processing company in Minsk, Belarus, collected fees for memberships to child pornography Web sites that brought in millions of dollars, the U.S. Attorney's Office said Thursday.

Connections USA, of Fort Lauderdale, Fla., is accused of receiving Regpay's membership fees and wiring the money to Latvia as directed by the company. Connections' CEO, Eugene Valentine, 38, pleaded guilty Wednesday to conspiracy to launder money for Regpay and its principals.

Four of Regpay's leaders were indicted, and three were arrested over the summer in France and Spain. U.S. authorities are seeking to have them transferred here for prosecution.

About two dozen New Jersey residents, and 20 other people around the nation, have been charged with downloading child pornography. They allegedly had subscribed to the sites.

Regpay was formerly known as Trustbill, while Connections did business as Iserve. Regpay operated at least four child pornography sites from Minsk and carried advertising for other child pornography Web sites, the indictment said.

"Today's indictment strikes at the heart of the commercial trade of child pornography by attacking the commercial profits derived from such a deplorable venture," Attorney General John Ashcroft said.

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