The world's biggest convicted child pornographer
By Pip Clothier
Date: May 13, 2003
Thomas Reedy used to be a nurse. Then he found the Net and made a fortune. Now he faces 1,335 years in jail
Last week Pete Townshend lost his reputation and gained five years on the sex offenders register after accessing a child porn website. Should he ever feel the need to find out, his troubles began in a handsome but small red-brick building on the corner of Main Street in Fort Worth, Texas. That was where a geeky Texan called Thomas Reedy first set up an internet adult porn business. It was a business that mushroomed into something far more chilling. Reedy's desire for cash led him to galvanise an illegal but rampant desire for hard-core child pornography.
Within two years, the hard drives on the computers of Thomas Reedy's Landslide Productions were bulging with credit card details from 250,000 internet customers across the globe. Child porn consumers from 60 countries were being satisfied by Reedy's operation. One of those who entered their credit card details was Pete Townshend of The Who. In February, Reedy's building was demolished to make a car park. A global centre for child porn was in ruins – as Townshend's career also appears to be.
Reedy is now sitting in a Texan prison contemplating one of the world's longest ever sentences – 1,335 years, 15 years for each of the 89 charges, to run consecutively. His wife, Janice, who worked at the business, received 14 years.Despite the "only in America"-style sentence, the woman who prosecuted Reedy, Assistant District Attorney Terri Moore, regards it as well-deserved. "He was making a tremendous amount of profit off the misery of children," she says. "He was feeding these perverts. He was feeding a beast. Granted, he wasn't hurting them himself. He wasn't in the photo committing the rape and he was not developing the photo, but he was feeding that. In my mind he just facilitated the rape of a child and should have a very harsh sentence." It is a pat speech from a woman used to dealing with nasty criminals in Texas. Yet, investigating the horrendous world of Landslide, it is hard not to agree with her.
Thomas Reedy, a former care nurse, was known in some quarters as "Greedy Reedy". His plan was to make a small fortune from some of the most sordid images conceivable, by putting them on the internet. While not the first to handle this kind of material – it's some years since paedophiles first used the net to swap the lurid collections that, previously, they had only been able to post to each other, or sell in back-street shops – he was the first to sell pay-per-view child porn on the net, and the first to succeed. His example has caused the net to be deluged by copycat sites.
"We're now receiving 80-85 new reports per week about pay-per-view child porn websites, nearly all of them housed in eastern Europe, Russia, the Ukraine and in different countries in South-east Asia," says John Carr from the Internet Watch Foundation. "I'm absolutely certain that one of the reasons we're seeing the growth is precisely because, following the Landslide case, criminals from all over the world realise how much money there is to be made in it."
Until recently, and on the Landslide site, the images were predominantly recycled child porn. But the huge amounts of money that web-based porn has injected into the industry is changing all that. "More and more children are being abused on a regular basis in order to provide new material for those websites," says Carr. "We know about certain individuals who are, on a regular basis, bringing children into a studio, a garage, photographing them and within 48 hours that material is up on the web."
Reedy grew up in Brownwood, a small town in central Texas. His father, a flea-market trader, provided a solid middle-class upbringing for his two boys. In his late teens, Reedy, the elder son, thought he might make it as a rock star. The family photo of him wearing black with an odd goatee beard makes him look like a heavy metal fan, although his taste was more country and western, true to his Texan roots. His future was to be more mundane, and he eventually headed off to nursing college, where his graduation shot reveals a smiling, ordinary man. However, between his long shifts at care homes, Thomas got going on the computer and quickly developed a talent for internet ideas. Some of the 54 different computer domain names that he registered were innocent enough – Harley Lovers.com, Payhere.net, Geekpay.com. There were some lurid sounding ones – net.sex.magazine and Pussies4U – but these were never activated by the canny Reedy. His most grotesque imagery was eventually marketed under the innocuous domain names of Landslide.com and Quayz.com.
Between 1996 and 1999, Landslide took nearly $10m, 85 per cent of which came from child porn. After paying handsome salaries and expenses that covered luxuries such as Mercedes sports cars for himself and Janice, investigators say, it still recorded profits of nearly $3m. Thomas and Janice, and her daughter from a previous marriage, moved into a sumptuous house on the prairies outside Fort Worth. Apart from throwing the occasional pool party at which he played loud classical music, Reedy kept a low profile.
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