Observant Blogger Exposes Fake Pedophile Site

How a DHS sting operation was intercepted by a blogger patrolling the Internet

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Last month, a vigilante blogger reported a suspicious website advertising "sex tourism" for pedophiles only to discover the site was actually part of an undercover sting operation run by the Department of Homeland Security. The Smoking Gun dug up all the details on how this DHS sting got stung. Apparently this blogger/computer programmer, who prefers to remain anonymous, is experienced in bringing down pedophiles and human traffickers on the Internet, so an alarm went off in her head when she came across the DHS website called "Precious Treasure Holiday Company." She explains that the fake company's initials, PTHC, are also "pedophile shorthand for 'preteen hardcore,'" and the symbols on sites homepage are "used by pedophiles to indicate 'boy lover,' 'girl lover,' and 'child love.'" The site offered trips from Cleveland, Ohio to Canada "for customers seeking sexual encounters with children." The blogger quickly reported the site to the Cleveland Police Department and the web site's host company--which had no idea it was hosting a fake operation run by DHS. The host, Endurance International Group, suspended the Precious Treasure Holiday Company's internet address, prompting the operations real intentions to be revealed.

Before the sting was derailed, however, the Precious Treasure Holiday Company was able to convict one of the website's visitors, indict another, and esnare at least two more--one of which, a former Marine, now serving in the Army Reserves. The blogger responsible for uncovering the sting questions why DHS didn't inform the web hosting company of what it was doing, or even use its own server for the job. "I can't figure out why they didn't anticipate that someone might find the site and have a problem with it," she told The Smoking Gun.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.