The Department of Homeland Security announced Tuesday the arrests of 14 people and the dismantling of the largest online child pornography network ever found in this country, a ring that exploited hundreds of minors in at least six nations.

DHS Secretary Jeh Johnson, accompanied by representatives from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, the Postal Inspection Service and the District Attorney's Office for the Eastern District of Louisiana, confirmed at a press conference that the operation involved at least 251 minors in 39 U.S. states and other countries.

Authorities arrested 14 people allegedly involved in the child porn network.

Eleven of the people arrested and now in ICE custody are accused of operating the Internet child porn site, which had more than 27,000 subscribers and was based in the state of Louisiana.

According to official reports, some of the suspects, who pretended to be women in their online chats, promised potential customers that they would put them in contact with - or obtain for them for sexual purposes - children between three and 17 years of age.

Most of the 251 minors who were exploited by the network, who have been identified and contacted by the authorities, live in towns in 39 different U.S. states, according to reports.

The majority of them are between 13 and 15 years old, and almost all of them are boys.

Authorities said that 23 of the victims were identified and located in Australia, Belgium, Canada, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.

"Never before in the history of this agency have we identified and located this quantity of minor victims during the course of a single child exploitation investigation," said ICE deputy director Daniel Ragsdale.

The network was detected after an item was sent through the U.S. Postal Service to a boy, said James Kilpatrick, who heads ICE Cyber Crimes Center.

The Web site was part of a hidden online service known as "Darknet," which includes anonymous Web sites, e-mail facilities and other services which can only be accessed through Tor, a type of software that guarantees online anonymity.

Investigators said that the hidden network is occasionally used for illicit activities.

According to official reports, there are more than 300 open investigations in the United States and abroad involving subscribers of the child porn Web site.

Jonathan Johnson, 27, of Abita Springs, Louisiana, who was identified as the main administrator of the site, could face between 20 years and life behind bars if found guilty, said U.S. Attorney for the Eastern District of Louisiana Kenneth Allen Polite. EFE