Federal raid rocks Terlingua

TERLINGUA — As residents discussed Thursday's raid on social media, the FBI confirmed it was involved in the operation.

TERLINGUA — Last Thursday the FBI raided a property in the remote community of Terlingua.

As Terlingua residents discussed the raid on social media, the FBI on Thursday afternoon confirmed to The Big Bend Sentinel that it was involved in the operation. A spokesperson said the agency was “conducting a court-authorized law enforcement activity in the area.” The Brewster County Sheriff’s Office declined to comment.

Residents said the raid happened at the residence of Thomas Arthur, 63. The Brewster County jail on Friday confirmed that Arthur was in custody.

In a criminal complaint, filed last Friday in the Western District of Texas, authorities accuse Arthur of three offenses: “importation or transportation of obscene matters,” “engaging in the business of selling or transferring obscene matters” and “obscene visual representations of the sexual abuse of children.”

In an attached affidavit, an FBI special agent alleges that Arthur owned an operated a website that sold access to “text stories about the sexual abuse of children.” Arthur allegedly ran the site starting as early as 2005, though a copyright suggests it may have been around as early as the 1990s, according to the affidavit.

“Most of the stories on the site,” which charged users a subscription fee, “graphically describe instances of rape, incest and adults sexually abusing children,” the affidavit states. Authorities have redacted the name of the website because “some of the users of the website are still under investigation.”

The FBI started investigating the site in September, using a subscriber’s account and later downloading at least five stories. Those stories were attached to a search warrant, which a judge signed.

The FBI says it linked an administrator email to Arthur’s IP address. Arthur later told authorities that he operated the site, along with another, the affidavit states.

The website allegedly included pornographic drawings of children. Arthur “claimed these images were art,” according to the affidavit.

In 2003, U.S. Congress tightened restrictions on child pornography, banning drawings, cartoons, scupltures and paintings that depict “a minor engaging in sexually explicit conduct.” The law was passed just after the Supreme Court struck down a similar law, ruling in 2002 that “virtual child pornography is not ‘intrinsically related’ to the sexual abuse of children.”

Abbie Perrault contributed to this report.