The alleged victims of Arthur Fernandez III were between the ages of 2 and 3, authorities claim
Content warning: The following article contains disturbing reporting about alleged sexual violence against children.
A Texas man is in federal custody after an FBI investigation allegedly revealed he sexually assaulted two small children alongside several other men, authorities claim.
Arthur Fernandez III was arrested in December and has been charged with sexual exploitation of children, court records show.
In early December, the Australian Centre to Counter Child Exploitation (ACCCE) notified the FBI about videos of child abuse they’d seen on the dark web on an invite-only forum, according to a criminal complaint reviewed by PEOPLE.
ACCCE provided investigators with three videos that allegedly showed Fernandez sexually abusing two minors on separate occasions, per the complaint.
In the videos, Fernandez is allegedly not alone — the investigation identified at least six other men who engaged in the alleged attacks on the children on separate occasions, per the complaint.
The complaint states both children were between the ages of 2 and 3 during the time of the alleged assaults.
Investigators identified one child with the use of an open source image repository, and then found a family member of the child's on social media, authorities said.
Investigators then showed the family member a photo taken from the video that allegedly showed Fernandez’s arm. After seeing the photo, the family member identified the jewelry as the same type as Fernandez wears, the complaint claims.
The family member of the child said she knew Fernandez because the two worked at the Galleria mall in Houston, per the complaint. Fernandez once offered to keep an eye on the child while the family member worked, she told authorities.
She provided investigators with Fernandez’s Instagram account, after which authorities allegedly identified him as one of the abusers from the videos.
She also identified another woman on Fernandez's Instagram as someone close to him who has a minor child. Investigators then spoke with the second woman, who identified the other alleged victim from the videos as her family member.
The second woman also said she knew Fernandez because they worked at the same store at the mall, per authorities.
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The complaint claims the videos show the children crying or pushing the men away during the alleged attacks, during which the men make obscene verbal comments. The children were physically abused as well as sexually abused, the videos show, the complaint alleges.
On at least one occasion, an attack against the children took place in the mall restroom, the complaint alleges.
Authorities believe the assaults shown in the video took place between April 2023 and May 2023, per the complaint.
One of the children in the videos had been left in the care of Fernandez even prior to that, in about December 2022, their family member told authorities.
Fernandez has pleaded not guilty to the charges, court records show. PEOPLE was unable to reach an attorney for him.
If you suspect child abuse, call the Childhelp National Child Abuse Hotline at 1-800-4-A-Child or 1-800-422-4453, or go to www.childhelp.org. All calls are toll-free and confidential. The hotline is available 24/7 in more than 170 languages.
If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.
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