The United States Department of Justice has announced that a Medford man pleaded guilty earlier this month for his involvement in an extensive, international child pornography tracking ring.

The United States Department of Justice has announced that a Medford man pleaded guilty earlier this month for his involvement in an extensive, international child pornography tracking ring.

Ruble Keys, 55, was one of 14 alleged members of the enterprise charged in a 40-count superseding indictment on March 19, and became the third member of the ring to enter a plea.

Keys pleaded guilty on May 8 in Pensacola, Fla., to four counts related to his criminal activities as a member of the group — engaging in a child exploitation enterprise; conspiracy to advertise, transport, ship, receive and possess child pornography; advertising child pornography; and receiving child pornography.

Keys faces a minimum prison sentence of 20 years and a maximum of life imprisonment, in addition to statutory fines. He will be sentenced on July 22.

Keys admitted to participating in the highly sophisticated and well-organized criminal enterprise, whose purpose was to proliferate child sex abuse images to its membership over a two-year period.

According to details contained within documents related to Keys' guilty plea, members of the illegal organization utilized large Internet file-sharing networks to traffic in illegal images and videos.

The material, the Justice Deptartment release said, depicted pre-pubescent children, including toddlers, engaged in various sexual and sadistic acts. Members of the porn ring used sophisticated encryption methods to avoid detection and traded more than 400,000 images and videos of child sexual abuse before being dismantled by law enforcement.

The charges were developed after law enforcement infiltrated the group in August 2006.

In addition to Keys, two other members of the enterprise have entered guilty pleas in this case. Warren Weber, 56, of Boise, pleaded guilty to five related charges on April 17, and is scheduled to be sentenced on June 24. Stepan Bondarenko, 38, of Philadelphia pleaded guilty to four related crimes on April 28, and is scheduled to be sentenced on July 8.

Trial for the remaining defendants is scheduled to begin on June 2, 2008, in Pensacola, Fla., before Senior U.S. District Judge Lacey A. Collier. The remaining defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty in a court of law.

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the U.S. Attorneys' Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information about Project Safe Childhood, visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.

The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney David Goldberg of the Northern District of Florida and Trial Attorney LisaMarie Freitas of the Criminal Division's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section. The case is being investigated by the FBI and the Queensland, Australia, Police Service, with the assistance of the Bundeskriminalamt (BKA) Child Pornography Unit in Germany, the Child Exploitation and Online Protection Centre in the United Kingdom and the Toronto, Canada, Police Department.