Australian Federal Police swooped on a New Lambton Heights property Friday, where they arrested and later charged a man with numerous child abuse material offences, and one bestiality charge.
The 54-year-old Newcastle man was expected to appear in court on Saturday. Police said he was identified as an alleged member of an online network for sharing child abuse material.
AFP officers executed search warrants at the man's residence, seizing two mobile phones and a passport. The man was subsequently charged with one count of possessing or controlling child abuse material obtained or accessed using a carriage service, two counts of using a carriage service to access child abuse material, two counts of using a carriage service to solicit child abuse material, two counts of using a carriage service to transmit child abuse material and one count of bestiality.
The maximum penalty for these offences is 15 years' imprisonment.
The man has become the 15th person arrested as part of a large-scale AFP-led investigation into the online network of alleged child sex offenders, codenamed Operation Arkstone.
The investigation has resulted in 828 charges and the identification of 46 child victims, AFP said in a statement.
"Our investigators are leaving no stone unturned," AFP Detective Superintendent Ben McQuillan said. "They are continuing to examine every piece of evidence seized throughout Operation Arkstone to identify and arrest more alleged members of this online network of child sex offenders.
"Sadly, we have not ruled out the possibility of discovering more child victims to be saved from further abuse."
Operation Arkstone began in February when the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation received a report from the US National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about an online user allegedly accessing child abuse material. AFP Eastern Command Child Protection Operations investigators arrested the alleged offender the same month.
The social media forums allegedly discovered on the man's electronic devices, which police allege was used for accessing child abuse material, led to the commencement of Arkstone.
Investigators and forensic specialists have continued examining evidence seized at each arrest to identify more alleged offenders in the network, a spokesperson for AFP said.
Members of the public who have any information about this network or people involved in child abuse and exploitation are urged to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.