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There Are Dark Corners Of The Internet. Then There’s 764

Detective Abraham Basco did the analysis of Cutler’s phone, turning up “700 images of the worst child exploitation he has observed in his career,” according to court records. “Nearly every image of child sexual exploitation showed the child to be bound or restrained and in many cases an element of sadism was observed.”

Cutler was charged with federal CSAM-related offenses last summer. He has pleaded guilty and is set for sentencing on March 20.

By 2022, the FBI’s investigation into 764 and com had significantly widened from Angel Almeida’s original case to suspects in the United States and beyond. At the 2022 Europol conference that fall, an FBI team gave a presentation to European law enforcement agencies that kick-started criminal investigations in Germany and France. Interpol was also brought in to help coordinate casework.

Criminal prosecutions of 764 and com members increased significantly in 2023, with cases filed in the United Kingdom, Germany, and several US jurisdictions. However, 764 and com have persisted, reemerging and splintering into dozens of new Discord servers and Telegram group chats that frequently change identifying information to stay ahead of the platforms and law enforcement.

Thomas-Gabriel Rüdiger, head of the Institute for Cyber Criminology at the Brandenburg Police University, assumes that most offenders feel safe online. “Particularly in a global context, the pressure by law enforcement on the internet can only be considered very low,” he says. This remains true, he says, “even if individual groups are repeatedly taken down.”

Recent cases brought by the FBI against US-based members of com illuminate the sheer volume of servers and groups that comprise the network’s “New Gen.” In December, a Hawaii Joint Terrorism Task Force arrested Kalana Limkin and charged him with CSAM distribution and soliciting minors through the Cultist Discord server. Court records show several reports were filed against Limkin for uploads of CSAM featuring the abuse of infants.

In late January, FBI agents arrested 47-year-old Richard Densmore at his grandmother’s house in Kaleva, Michigan. An Army veteran who’d committed a sexual offense in 1997, Densmore allegedly went by the handle “Rabid” online, took part in “New Gen” com/764 circles, and ran his own Discord server called “Sewer,” where he would allegedly solicit and distribute CSAM of young girls. During a detention hearing for Densmore, federal prosecutors highlighted his affiliation with 764, which they labeled “an emerging threat.”

Most recently, federal law enforcement arrested 24-year-old Kyle Spitze of Friendsville, Tennessee, on child sexual exploitation charges. Federal agents seized Spitze’s phone in mid-February following a series of chaotic events during which his mother’s boyfriend shot him in the ear, and culminating in his mother’s death in late January. On Spitze’s phone, according to court records, federal agents found CSAM of a minor victim under a folder labeled with her name, and a Telegram account under the username “Criminal,” which Spitze allegedly used to distribute the young girl’s CSAM to other users. The victim was also identified and interviewed by the FBI, and stated that she was 12 years old when Spitze allegedly victimized her.

Chloe, one of his ex-girlfriends who met Spitze as an adult, says she found out about his alleged pedophilia after they broke up. “He was already making me upset during our relationship by posting revenge [porn] of me, and selling those images behind my back,” she says. Since she broke up with him last summer, Chloe learned through Spitze’s online presence that he allegedly abused several other children, many of whom she’d spoken to, with ages ranging from 17 to 10 years old. “He ran this server on Discord and Telegram, Slitbunnies. It was full of CSAM, cutsigns, and animal crush,” Chloe claims.