WASHINGTON — A yearlong nationwide sting operation against child pornography has yielded more than 100 indictments of suspected buyers of the illicit material, including eight in the Los Angeles area, Atty. Gen. Edwin Meese III announced Thursday.
Meese said that more indictments are expected from the approximately 275 search warrants obtained in 38 states by the Postal Inspection Service and the Customs Service.
"The one place where we as a society must draw the figurative line in the sand is with the abomination of child pornography," Meese said in his announcement, made a little more than a year after he announced a crackdown on child pornography. "We must contain it and ultimately we must eliminate it."
Using material confiscated in previous raids, postal inspectors involved in Project Looking Glass set up a dummy corporation, the Far Eastern Trading Co. in Hong Kong, and sent out about 500 mail order catalogues offering magazines, videocassettes and films of young boys and girls in homosexual and heterosexual acts, officials said.
In a parallel investigation, Operation Borderline, the Customs Service sent 1,000 brochures offering child pornography photo sets from a dummy company in Canada.
Meese said that the offers were mailed to people who were "predisposed to such material," whose names had been taken from records recovered in previous raids.
Those indicted covered a variety of professions, including engineers, store owners, a postman, a railroad inspector and a film producer.
"In many cases, they are pillars of the community," Meese said.
The suspects are charged with violating the 1982 Child Protection Act, which prohibits possession of material involving sexual exploitation of minors. It carries penalties of up to $100,000 and 10 years in prison.
Most of the indictments were returned by federal grand juries in the last month. Meese said evidence uncovered in the searches illustrates how child pornography is linked to child sexual abuse.
In New York, Meese said, investigators found a diary kept by one suspect that contained 100 entries detailing names, dates, ages and sexual acts performed with males as young as 12.
In Michigan, authorities found sexually explicit photos of a suspect's nieces from the time they were 5 years old.
In the investigation, Meese said, the government intended to target pedophiles who he said represent a major segment of child sexual abusers.
Psychologist Lynn Daugherty, author of "Why Me?--Help for Victims of Child Sexual Abuse," said in an interview that the emphasis on pedophiles was justified. "While they are thought to be a fairly small number, they are a very active group who abuse a large number of children," Daughtery said. "According to one study, each pedophile averages 70 different victims."
Federal child pornography indictments have increased from 61 in 1984 to 147 in 1986, Meese said.