Grandmother to abused child blaming Homeland Security for the assault

Had the police done their job, these men would never have been near my grandchild, says the grandmother of a four-year-old girl who was abused by the founders of the world's largest abuse forum.

  • Håkon F. Høydal
  • Einar Otto Stangvik

Artikkelen er over to år gammel

Did American police suspect that an assault was committed against a girl inside the house they watched an October night last year?

That's the question that haunts the grandmother of the girl. Now she wants answers from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI): Was her grandchild sacrificed in the effort to arrest the leaders of the world's largest child abuse web forum?

The police reject the charges and call them serious, but unfounded. Click box below to see what HSI could have known about the situation the child was in.

Breaking the dark net: Read the documentary about the international police operation here.

The hunt

By October of last year investigators had already spent more than half a year hunting the administrators of two web forums dedicated to sharing child abuse material on the dark net: «Childs Play» and «The GiftBox Exchange».

A secret operation led by the Australian Task Force Argos and the United States Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) had identified the men to be the Canadian Benjamin Faulkner and the American Patrick Falte. In the first weekend of October, Falte and Faulkner met in a house in Virginia, south of Washington D.C.

Together with a third man, the two men sexually abused a four-year-old child that Saturday night.

Legal documents show that agents from HSI followed Falte and Faulkner to the house and saw them park outside.

Only two days later, Falte and Faulkner were arrested.

The child’s grandmother has criticized the fact that the agents from the HSI did not enter the house on that Saturday night. She thinks they should have known what was happening to the child inside.

Read also: Boasted about abuse - was not caught

“The police had them tailed all the way. They had a tracking device on Falte’s car. When the police knew the actions of Faltes and Faulkner on the dark net, how could they let them enter the house? My grandchild should never have had to suffer what happened that night. Had the police done their job, these men would never have been near my grandchild,” the grandmother says to VG.

Sentenced to life

She wants to know what decisions were made by HSI that evening.

“What did the police think would happen inside the house? I'm just a lay person, but to me it would be obvious”, she says.

For the sake of the four-year-old child VG has chosen to anonymize the grandmother.

FOR LIFE: Benjamin Faulkner og Patrick Falte was sentenced to life for abusing a child only two days prior to their arrest by Homeland Security. They have appealed the sentence. Later this year they will stand trial in Tennessee, accused for being the administrators of child abuse forums on the dark net. Foto: Photo: Virginia Police

Why would the police postpone the arrest of Falte and Faulkner if they had suspicions about what would happen to a child that night,“ VG asks the grandmother.

“I do not know. Maybe they wanted one more victim to make their case stronger”, she answers.

Falte and Faulkner are already sentenced to life for the abuse of the child. They have appealed the verdict.

Wondering why they should meet

VG has been in contact with Faulkner and Falte, who are imprisoned in the United States. They say they do not think the police knew about the assault that happened on Saturday.

“We made sure specifically not to talk about specifics anywhere other than on Tox [Encrypted Chat] and burner phones with dummy burner phone numbers. They [the police] did not know anything about what was going on in Virginia”, Faulkner wrote in an email.

WONDERED WHY: The investigation that led to the arrest of Faulkner and Falte was led by the Australian police unit Task Force Argos. “We definitely wondered why they wanted to meet. That question hung over our heads,” Jon Rouse says. Foto: Photo: Tore Kristiansen

Jon Rouse, head of the Australian Task Force Argos, says they did not know the reasons behind the meeting of Falte and Faulkner.

“But we definitely wondered why they wanted to meet. That question hung over our heads”, Rouse has said to VG.

VG has been in contact with Homeland Security Investigations in the United States.They reject the accusations from the grandmother, but will not respond to VG's questions whether the agents from HSI had, or ought to have reason to suspect, that an assault would be committed on that Saturday night.

Also read: No word to Scandinavian police about potential child abusers after Australian police sting

“As this is an ongoing investigation I am not able to comment on the specifics of the case. As to allegations that HSI acted in an inappropriate manner, it is untrue. HSI focuses on protecting victims. We have a legal responsibility to respond if we become aware of an offense”, says Thomas Byrd, information officer at the HSI.

He encouraged the grandmother to contact the Department of Homeland Security.

“If anyone believes that HSI has behaved wrong or inappropriate, they can voice these concerns to the Office of Inspector General at the Department of Homeland Security”, Byrd recommends.

He cannot comment on whether there is already an internal investigation of the grandmother's charges.

Criminologist: Police acting as judges

– All depends on the quality of the operation

“It's hard to know what the police ought to have known during the weekend in question”, says professor Douglas Besharov at the University of Maryland. He was the first director of the US National Center on Child Abuse, and is well acquainted with child abuse investigations.

“In this case it is not clear who knew what. I often find that journalists are surprised that they sometimes know more than the police. Occasionally, mistakes are made, but it is also true that the details, as you mentioned, may be difficult for the police to figure out there and then.”

“The key question is: could the police have put these facts together on Saturday night? It depends on the quality of the police investigation, on the time they had available and the resources”, says Besharov to VG.

“The assault on the child was an unfortunate situation, but sometimes these are unavoidable”, says professor Douglas Besharov at the University of Maryland. Foto: Photo: Univ. of Maryland

He is nevertheless impressed with the investigation that Homeland Security Investigations team conducted with the Australian Task Force Argos.

“This seems to have been a good example of cooperation between police departments, and in the end, they got their men. The assault on the child was an unfortunate situation, but sometimes these are unavoidable”, he says.

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