A newly-graduated working dog named Hidu teamed up with Mexican prosecutors and a group of Dutch activists to form an unusual international alliance. Together, they helped bring down a dangerous child predator.
Jason Maatman, a known Dutch pedophile, fled to Mexico City in order to escape prosecution in the Netherlands. Authorities captured him at a bus stop, but without a home address, they feared his cache of digital evidence would go unfound.
Authorities were able to trace Maatman’s movements back to a dirty apartment he was renting using a network of street surveillance cameras. Once police obtained a search warrant, Hidu went to work.
As a recent graduate of Jordan Detection K9 Academy in Indianapolis, Indiana, this good boy has been training to sniff out electronic devices since he was a pup. Electronic Detection dogs like Hidu learn to detect triphenylphosphine oxide, or TPPO, a chemical coating used in flash drives and memory cards. The chemical prevents these devices from overheating and gives off a distinctive odor that dogs like Hidu can locate.
Todd Jordan initially trained “accelerant detection” dogs to sniff out accelerants like gasoline in possible arson cases. But with cyber crimes on the rise, electronics detection dogs are in high demand. Jordan has now trained 83 dogs to detect flash drives and memory devices criminals use to store everything from child pornography to cryptocurrencies used in drug deals.
“I think the electronics dogs have now surpassed the accelerant canines because of just the need of them, and just because of the way the world is right now,” said Jordan. “These dogs, I mean just everybody, every internet crimes task force could use one of these.”
This was Hidu’s first case since graduating from the academy two weeks ago. It was also the first overseas case for any of Jordan’s dogs.
Operation Underground Railroad, a U.S.-based organization devoted to fighting human trafficking, flew Hidu and his handler to Mexico City, where prosecutors were about to search Maatman’s apartment.
“My understanding is there was a cellphone hidden in a laundry basket with just rancid total terrible laundry, you know, dirty clothes in one corner that no one would go into,” said Matt Osborne, OUR’s director of global operations. “The dog found that phone.”
Hidu also located additional child pornographic material taped to a wall beneath a painting, Osborne said. “The dog sniffed out a couple of the hard drives in a few places in his apartment that were difficult for humans to find, but the dog sniffed it out.”
All told, Hidu recovered more than four terabytes of child sexual abuse material.
Maatman was also found to have a pistol and several doses of cocaine in his possession at the time of his arrest. He is being held at a Mexico City prison on charges of human trafficking and drug and weapons possession.
“Our understanding was that he was entertaining offers from other people who wanted to go into business with him,” apparently to sell or monetize a trove of sexually explicit material involving young children, Osborne said. “He was talking that he needed money.”
Thanks to Hidu, it should be a long time before this dangerous predator sees the outside of a prison.
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