Summary - Scott has been an operational police officer with the Queensland Police Service for 20 years. Scott served seven years in uniform policing throughout Queensland and in 2005 commenced investigative duties at the Redcliffe District Juvenile Aid Bureau where his passion for child protection investigations originated. Scott recognised the importance of focusing on internet facilitated crimes against children, and transferred to Argos in 2009, where he has, over the last eight years worked in the Internet response, Online Investigations, and Dark Net teams. In 2012, Scott assumed the role of a team leader at Argos assigned with the responsibility of managing covert online investigations. Scott is also involved in facilitating online child exploitation investigative training, PSP investigations training, in-field forensic triaging training, curriculum development and regularly delivers training to investigators from all State Police Services and Forces, Australian Federal Police and International Police.
Description of Achievement / Work - Argos is an operational unit within the Queensland Police Service (OPS) which investigates online child exploitation. Detective Sergeant Ballantyne is a member of the unit's senior leadership team and is directly responsible for the units operational activities.
In June 2013 Argos commenced Operation Lima Rhodes to infiltrate, disrupt and dismantle the highly organised criminal network responsible for the creation and management of the 'hidden' child exploitation website, Toe Love Zone' (TLZ). Detective Sergeant Ballantyne was instrumental in the coordination of Operation Lima Rhodes going well beyond the call of duty in his dedication, professionalism and personal commitment to ensure the enormous success the operation would achieve.
In early 2012 Argos received information from a partner agency overseas that a computer server in that country had been operating a domain containing child exploitation material (CEM). The server was closed by authorities and all data relating to persons purchasing CEM was captured by Police and analysed in detail. The information was later distributed to a number of jurisdictions including Queensland.
In March 2013 Argos commenced Operation Lima Stampede to manage and analyse the information associated with Queensland targets. The QPS response resulted in 38 arrests, one tenth of the world's total arrests regarding this information.
A thorough examination was conducted of the exhibits seized during Operation Lima Stampede and evidence was found relating to a hidden service on the 'TOR' network. The hidden service was identified as 'The Love Zone' (TLZ) and was believed to have been established in 2010, making it the longest standing TOR hidden service on the internet and the largest child exploitation site In the world.
The Love Zone hidden service took the form of a bulletin board, with the sole purpose of bringing together like-minded persons intent on the exploitation of children. The bulletin board facilitated the sharing of exploitation material, participating in forums with vast ranging topics centred on the exploitation of children, private messaging and the sharing of security measures and techniques to avoid detection by law enforcement.
In June 2013 Operation Lima Rhodes commenced, and an investigative strategy was developed to maximise an opportunity to identify as many victims and as many offenders as possible. The investigation developed a potential lead for the person who was filling the role of head administrator believed to be residing in South Austra6a. Further Inquiries identified the head administrator as Shannon Grant McCoole.
On 10 June 2014 Argos and South Australian Police executed a search warrant at McCoole's residence locating McCoole with his computer powered up and with the encrypted partition open. A number of items relating to the TLZ investigation were located on McCoole's computer which confirmed the McCoole was the head administrator of TLZ. The website had been created for the sole purpose of facilitating the global sharing of child exploitation material and the disruption of this board was a pivotal point in Argos' investigations to obfuscated on line child exploitation offending.
McCoole was an employee with Families South Australia and Nanny South Australia with direct access to children. The arrest of McCoole resulted in the commencement of a Royal Commission into South Australia's child protection system.
The closure of TLZ resulted in approximately 200 offenders being identified and evidence packages disseminated to over 50 international jurisdictions including Europol, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), the Netherlands, Sweden, United Kingdom and Denmark.
In all, over 300 offenders were identified in 50 countries including Australia, Argentina, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Spain, Denmark, France, Germany, US and Russia, and almost one hundred 100 children have been rescued nationally and internationally as a direct result of Operation Rhodes.
Throughout the course of Operation Lima Rhodes, Detective Sergeant Ballantyne demonstrated intelligence, tenacity, resourcefulness and dedication to duty to a degree far exceeding what might reasonably be expected, going well beyond the call of duty to protect the community from online child sex offenders. The results achieved would not have been possible without his professionalism and commitment Operation Lima Rhodes has enabled Argos and the Queensland Police Service to present themselves as world leaders in the investigation of internet child exploitation offences.