HE was a child star but all for the wrong reasons.
He made his debut at just 22-months old - not for a toy store advertisement or even a family friendly PG film. This was for hardcore global pornographic syndication.
He would be filmed being sexually abused by his “adoptive parents” and at least eight other pedophiles in Australia, France, Germany and the United States.
His horrific introduction to the insidious world of pedophilia dated back to 2005 when his Russian mother sold him for $8,000 to a member of Boy Lovers – a sophisticated global network of men whose sexual preference are boys aged between six and eight years old.
The boy was “adopted” by American Mark J Newton who lived in Brisbane and Cairns with his Australian boyfriend, Peter Truong.
Such was the extent of the abuse, the boy, who will be called Adam for legal reasons, grew up believing the abuse and exploitation was a natural part of his daily existence.
Newton even coached Adam on how to deny any inappropriate activity if questioned by investigators.
He was so indoctrinated that when interviewed by a queue of US experts, Adam did not reveal the severe sexual abuse he suffered at the hands of his “parents” and the Boy Lovers network.
Queensland Police Taskforce Argos, which targets pedophiles, also fear the same techniques may have been used on several other children who came into contact with the men.
Newton and Truong’s secret life began to unravel at a New Zealand home in August 2011 when a fan of their work and fellow sex offender was arrested with computer drives containing “happy snaps” of Adam and his parents among images of child exploitation.
To the untrained eye, the pictures depicted a family outing, but to a network of veteran detectives the snaps triggered grave concern.
“On examination of the drives, they located some of the images – whilst they were not of a nature that would constitute a criminal offence, to the trained eye, and there is a network of investigators across the world who do this on a daily basis, the images were not what you would see as a traditional family snap,’’ said Detective Inspector Jon Rouse, head of Queensland police Taskforce Argos which targets pedophilia.
“The pictures were kind of modeling shots, it looked wrong to us,” said Inspector Rouse in an exclusive interview with Seven News.
However a detectives’ hunch was not sufficient for a search warrant but it was enough for both Argos and New Zealand’s Department of Internal Affairs to launch an investigation.
Argos conducted background checks and used their specialist victim identification staff to identify who the people were in the photos and locate the boy. At the same time New Zealand authorities examined chat logs and information contained on their offender’s hard drives.
“The information and text from those logs was the catalyst to gain grounds for a search warrant. The text clearly indicated communication between the suspects (Truong and Newton) and other child sex offenders where the child had been sexually abused and the material live-streamed in some cases to these other offenders,’’ Insp Rouse said.
Further checks revealed Truong and Newton had travelled extensively, and at that time, had left Queensland for the US.
Argos conducted several raids in Queensland including the men’s Cairns home where they found a sophisticated set-up of surveillance cameras.
Concerned for Adam’s welfare, Queensland police alerted their US counterparts who raided the men’s Los Angeles home and took them into custody and placed Adam into care in October 2011.
“Now the information we provided them at the time was tantamount to what you would call the smoke but not the gun. We had our concerns, the chat logs and material but it was not enough for the US authorities to actually prosecute the two men. It was enough, however, for us to ensure that the young boy was kept in care…’’ he said.
The police raids in north Queensland uncovered a significant volume of material but it was encrypted and Argos investigators did not have the pass phrases to unlock it.
Using the material that was not encrypted, the taskforce victim identification team spent months piecing together a timeline of the men’s life.
“These two individuals were meticulous about cataloging nearly everything they did, all of their travel. The young boy featured very heavily in most of this material. Everything from airports to theme parks….they documented everything which was to their detriment,’’ he said.
The information also helped police identify some of their associates.
“So the backend of all this work being done, we had encrypted material we had a strong suspicion contained child exploitation images. We had a boy in care and the two offenders at large in Los Angeles protesting their innocence and the matter progressing through the (US) Family Law Court,’’ Insp Rouse said.
At the time Newton and Truong claimed authorities were targeting them because of their homosexuality.
Insp Rouse rejected the men’s claims saying Argos targets anyone who harms children.
"If you're harming a child - I don't care what your gender is - we will take action. Our interest is the child, not your sexual preference."
Through their strong ties with their overseas counterparts, Argos learned the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) was investigating the Boy Lover network.
USPIS investigator Brian Bone was alerted to the photos of Adam found on the New Zealand offender and recognised he was the same boy who featured pornographic footage and images uncovered in several of their investigations.
Argos sent all of the evidence they had collected to the US along with the technique Newton and Truong, both computer experts, had used to encrypt their hard drives.
The men were arrested in February last year.
Newton and Truong have previously claimed in media interviews their son was born to a Russian surrogate mother they found on the internet.
Once US authorities confronted Truong with the evidence gathered from parallel investigations, he provided the pass phrases to investigators. Newton refused to co-operate.
When the drives were unlocked, it was “blatantly apparent” to investigators Newton and Truong had bought Adam into their lives for exclusive purpose of sexually exploiting him among the Boy Lovers network.
“The evidence told us effectively that these two men are intrinsically linked with child sex offenders, with a preference for young boys, going back a long way and they have travelled the world and sexually exploited that young boy…”Insp Rouse said.
Earlier today Australian time, a US Judge jailed 42-year-old Newton for 40 years – imposing the maximum sentence for the federal crimes of conspiracy to sexually exploit a minor and conspiracy to possess child pornography.
The District Court in Indianapolis was told Adam was made available for sex for at least eight men when he was between the ages of two and six.
Two other men, American residents John R Powell, 41, a Florida-based lawyer, and Jason Bettuo, a 36-year-old Michigan tennis coach, have also been charged.
US Attorney Joseph H Hogsett said between 2010 and 2011, Newtown and Truong travelled to San Francisco to meet with Powell and Bettuo who filmed themselves having sex with Adam.
Powell also travelled to the men’s Cairns home in this time to do the same with Adam.
The trafficking of the sex abuse images over the internet and the US mail system kicked off the original USPIS investigation.
"Personally.. I think this is probably the worst (pedophile) rings.. if not the worst ring I've ever heard of,’’ USPIS Investigator Brian Bone said.
“For more than one year and across three continents, these men submitted this young child to some of the most heinous acts of exploitation this child has ever seen,’’ Mr Hogsett said after the court hearing.
Truong, 36, has pleaded guilty and is awaiting sentencing of charges of conspiring to sexually exploit a child, and possessing child pornography.
Adam’s future is unknown and he is currently in the care of an American family.
Newton and Truong have previously claimed in media interviews that after several failed attempts to find a surrogate in the US, their son was born to a Russian surrogate mother they found on the internet.
"We decided that we would have a child, that it was time for us to have a family. We wanted to experience the joys of fatherhood and we started our surrogacy over in the United States back in 2002," Truong said at the time.
"We have heard about a lot of scams and certain people who represent themselves as so-called surrogate mothers who are really out there just to make money," he said.
The men claimed Mark was the biological father and Adam’s mother handed him to them when he was five days old.
Investigation into the men’s activities is continuing.
Insp Rouse said the taskforce had interviewed several sex offenders in Queensland and Australia who had been communicating with Newton and Truong.
Detectives have also interviewed several Queensland children who came into contact with the pair.
"Based on the activity of these individuals - you'd have to have suspicions any child that would have had contact with these men - I would have to think is a high likelihood of being affected in some way"
“We have conducted a number of interviews with a number of children, however we do not have any disclosures of sexual abuse,’’ he said.
Examination of the pair’s finances has also raised questions with investigators of how the men supported their global lifestyle with no obvious means of income.
“There was no real money trail that indicates they are in a form of employment that would sustain the lifestyle they’ve had and you can draw your own conclusion with respect to the amount of travel they’ve done and where they’ve been and the purpose of that travel,” Insp Rouse said.
Insp Rouse said Argos had encountered members of the Boy Lovers network in child sex investigations between Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast several years ago.
If either Troung or Newton ever return to Australian shores, Taskforce Argos will pursue them, Insp Rouse said.