An Indiana man involved in running a “highly sophisticated, global” child pornography website was sentenced this week to 20 years in prison, PEOPLE confirms.
Michael Fluckiger is one of three men arrested in connection with managing a shadowy site of more than 150,000 members that trafficked in “tens of thousands of postings relating to sexual abuse of children as young as infants and toddlers,” federal prosecutors said in a news release.
The FBI has described the website as “the largest remaining known child pornography hidden service in the world,” according to Motherboard, which reported that federal agents were able to take control of the site for several days in 2015 so as to then identify its members via hacking.
Fluckiger, 46, was sentenced Thursday for engaging in a child exploitation enterprise, according to prosecutors. Following his prison time, he will spend the rest of his life on parole. He pleaded guilty in December 2015 and has remained in custody since his arrest that March.
Prosecutors say Fluckiger was a co-administrator of the unnamed site, a “global enterprise dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children” that was operated on an anonymous network.
Fluckiger was “heavily involved” in daily operations, according to authorities. He managed membership and enforced rules and guidelines, including removing content “that did not depict or discuss child pornography.” Fluckiger admitted to his actions in court as a condition of his plea.
“It’s depravity at its height,” a former FBI official told WSOC of the child pornography case, soon after Fluckiger’s arrest.
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Two more men have also been arrested as website operators, prosecutors said Thursday: David Browning, who pleaded guilty in December 2015, and Steven Chase, who was convicted in September 2016. Browning, 47, was a global moderator of the site and Chase, 57, was the lead administrator, according to prosecutors.
Browning is set to be sentenced in February, prosecutors said. Chase’s sentencing has not been set. Calls and messages to attorneys for all three men were not immediately returned.
Prosecutors say their ongoing investigation led to the arrests of 48 “hands-on abusers” and the rescue of 49 children.
It was not immediately clear if more arrests could be forthcoming in connection with the website’s operations. The U.S. Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment.