FBI arrests man in connection to website that trafficks in child sex abuse stories

File photo. (Photo: FBI)

BREWSTER COUNTY, Tx. (KOSA) -- The FBI has arrested a man in Terlingua who they say owned and operated a website that trafficked in text stories about the sexual abuse of children.

Thomas Alan Arthur has been charged with importation or transportation of obscene matters, engaging in the business or selling or transferring obscene matter and obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.

According to a criminal complaint, the FBI believes that from January 2005 through November 7, 2019 Alan was the owner and operator of an unnamed website that trafficked in text stories about the sexual abuse of children.

The website charged subscribers to access more than 25,000 stories written by more than 2,200 authors. The complaint states that the website's copyright indicated that it had been active since 1996.

Subscriptions of $10 per month, $25 for three months, $50 for six months and $90 per year were advertised. Free or reduced-price subscriptions were offered for anyone who submitted stories.

FBI agents were able to access the website using credentials of a paid subscriber. All of the stories they saw reportedly involved sexual abuse of a child. The website's stories reportedly were accompanied by disclaimers stating that "they are fictional, they are frequently written in the first person and depict acts of child sex abuse that are within the realm of possibility."

The FBI was able to identify multiple subscribers to the website who had prior convictions for sex crimes against children using bank records and FBI databases. They also found usernames that were the same or similar to usernames that had appeared in unrelated FBI investigations into child pornography and child sex abuse on other internet forums or peer-to-peer networks.

On October 23 an FBI agent accessed the website and submitted a question about account access. The agent then received a reply from Thomas Arthur's IP address at his home in Terlingua. The FBI found that the address had been used in 2005 and 2006. Emails sent from the address included information that matched with Arthur's age, marriage and property.

The FBI also found that Arthur received between $10,000 and $13,000 each month between 2018 and 2019 in card sales from a company that processed credit and debit card transactions.

The FBI, DPS and Homeland Security executed a search warrant at Arthur's home on November 7. Later that day in an interview Arthur admitted to running the website in question and another and stated that they were his sole sources of income.

The complain states that Arthur acknowledged that the subscribers to the website may have drawings on their author pages depicting children engaging in sexual acts, but he claimed these images were art.

Arthur was then charged with three offenses.