Investigators from the United States and three other countries have broken up an international child pornography ring that featured live transmissions of sexual molestation streamed on the Internet.
A total of 27 people from four countries have been charged in connection with the child pornography investigation. Thirteen of those charged are in the United States while the other 14 face charges in Canada, Australia or Britain.
All but one of those implicated in the case have been arrested.
U.S. Attorney General Alberto Gonzales announced the indictments at a news conference in Chicago.
"Over the past few months, undercover investigators infiltrated an international Internet chat room that was being used to facilitate the trading of graphic images of child pornography, including live streaming video of adults sexually molesting children and infants," he said.
Investigators have identified seven victims of child molestation in connection with the pornography case.
Investigators say one of the men allegedly involved used four minors under the age of 12 to engage in sexual acts that were then transmitted live over the Internet to other members of a special private chat room.
In another case, a man allegedly sexually molested an infant while the images were streamed live over the Internet.
"The behavior in these chat rooms and the images many of these defendants sent around the world through peer to peer file sharing programs and private instant messaging services are the worst imaginable forms of child pornography," said the U.S. attorney general.
The specific charges include possession, receipt, distribution and manufacture of child pornography.
A conviction on the manufacturing charge carries a minimum 15-year prison sentence in the United States, while the other charges bring minimum sentences of at least five years.
Those charged in the case will be allowed to enter pleas at a later court appearance.