For most of us, sexual and physical abuses to children are some of the worst of the worst crimes a person could commit. Even within the prison system, those that commit offenses against children are considered the lowest class of inmate, and are often forced into segregation to avoid conflict with other prisoners. Many parents live in fear that their children may fall prey to these disturbed individuals, but sadly, more often than not the people that commit these heinous crimes are those that children feel the closest to. When Canadian officials launched “Project Spade” in 2010, they didn’t realize that they would uncover one of the largest child pornography rings ever reported, spanning across the globe, and involving people of all walks of life – including those that worked closely with children.

Beginning in October of 2010, reports began to roll in through cybertip.ca— a site created by the Canadian government to anonymously report suspected crimes, about a Toronto-based film company named Azov Films. After investigating Azov’s website, it was determined that the company distributed DVDs featuring nude and partially nude children engaging in various activities. Through the internet, undercover police made contact with a 42-year-old man named Brian Way, owner of the offending film company.

Although the site was shut down shortly after the investigation began, in 2011 Brian Way was brought into custody. Seizing Azov’s servers, computers, and other equipment, investigators found hundreds of thousands of videos and images depicting young boys ranging in ages from 5 to 12 years old engaged in sexual acts, some of which were the worst they had ever seen. Financial records disclosed that Azov made close to $4million in sales before being shut down, with customers in 94 different countries. Way, himself, was charged with 24 counts related to distributing child pornography and pinpointed as the ringleader of a worldwide child pornography ring.

Commissioned by Way to produce the material, Azov obtained their footage from varied sources, but most had origins in the Ukraine and Romania. Azov would then redistribute the material through their website for roughly $40 per hour of footage. Although the website referred to the footage that was offered as “naturist”, and not actually pornographic in nature, officials claimed that the children in the videos were clearly victims of exploitation and abuse. From what was witnessed on the footage by investigators, the boys were primarily filmed in dirty apartments, or saunas, even backyards. Some footage showed the boys engaging in athletic activities in the nude, including extreme close up shots of their genitals, while others were exceptionally more graphic in nature.

What alarmed investigators the most was how many of the individuals arrested in connection to Azov were closely involved with children. The head of the Toronto Sex-Crimes Unit, Joanna Beaven-Desjardins, said in a later press conference “The arrests included 40 school teachers, nine doctors and nurses, 32 people who volunteered with children, six law enforcement personnel, nine pastors or priests, and three foster parents.”

One man connected to the case, a divorce lawyer and baseball coach named David Scott Engle, was found to be in possession of dozens of videos featuring him carrying out mortifying sexual acts with young boys, along with other purchased pornographic material involving children. Engle would be the first of 76 US citizens to be apprehended through Project Spade. A GOP Senator –Ryan Loskarn, also found to be involved in the scandal, later hung himself as a result.

While it is unclear what became of the children, or the trauma that resulted due to their ordeal, when Project Spade was wrapped up in 2013 close to 350 pedophiles were arrested and nearly 400 children had been rescued from their deplorable conditions. Brought to light by the work of a handful of concerned citizens and served justice by the diligent work of 30 local governments, these depraved individuals will thankfully never be allowed near children again.