2 men accused of getting cash-strapped family to supply pedophilic footage

2 men accused of getting cash-strapped family to supply pedophilic footage

Suspects from the southern city of Eilat allegedly launched a ‘reality TV’ website that degenerated into child pornography

Sue Surkes is The Times of Israel's environment reporter.

Illustrative. A person being arrested. (BrianAJackson via iStock by Getty images)
Illustrative. A person being arrested. (BrianAJackson via iStock by Getty images)

Two men from the southern city of Eilat were indicted Sunday for allegedly pressuring a cash-strapped family into allowing themselves — and particularly their underage children — to be filmed for an online sex channel.

The men launched and operated a paid-for internet site called watchme247, which was initially promoted as a new kind of reality TV broadcasting mainly sexual content from various homes.

Users could access footage from a particular camera for a limited time, or could pay for services such as footage filmed in the bedrooms of various homes, access to a video library, and high-resolution photographs taken from the films.

In time, the site degenerated into broadcasting pedophilia from a single family home, according to the charge sheet presented to the Magistrate’s Court in Petah Tikva, outside Tel Aviv, where the suspects’ server was located.

The suspects — Benjamin Bar Sheshet, 46, and Ofer Sela, 45 — allegedly persuaded a family in economic distress to have cameras installed in their home in areas including the bedrooms of their two 14-year-old boys and their 11-year-old daughter, the bathrooms and the showers.

“They pleaded with family members, including the minors, to walk around naked at home… in order to increase the appeal of the broadcast,” the court heard, and they threatened to cut off contact with the family if they did not do as they were asked.

Under pressure, the family provided footage of sex acts involving the minors, which involved partial or full nudity and included scenes from the bathroom.

In addition, Bar Sheshet allegedly convinced the daughter that he would serve as her agent and turn her into a TV star.

The two men are suspected of having carried out several filming sessions with her, dressing her in underwear and bathing suits, placing her in provocative positions, and focusing the camera on her buttocks and breasts.

Prosecutor Itay Gohar of the Israel Police’s cyber department, said that the accused operated their site for a considerable period on a large scale, broadcasting more extreme footage in the run-up to their arrest and “objectifying” the children, whom they saw as a convenient tool with which to increase their profits.

The two men were charged with using a minor for obscene publicity, sexual harassment, and infringement of privacy.

Gohar asked that the accused be remanded until the end of court proceedings, saying that they were a danger to children.

He also requested the court discuss the case behind closed doors and issue a gag order preventing the identification of the families involved, for their own protection.

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