Investigation blocked: Safety concerns meet a wall of silence at furry conventions.

by Patch O'Furr

Content warning for animal abuse and sexual violence. Part 3 of a 5 part update about the Zoosadist chat leaks.

In September 2018, the furry fandom was shocked by news about zoosadists (people into rape, torture and murder of animals for their fetish). Part 1) looks at how their ring was exposed, the threat to events, and who is implicated. A focus on ring member Tane makes a thread through a tangled story. Part 2) looks at police involvement and evasion by the ring. This part returns to how staff respond about a threat to events.

Here, Tane explains ways to drug targets for sex at furry conventions. He calls it “pseudoconsent” (coercing someone with technical permission when they lack real control). But when a person is sedated for sex there’s no legal defense for criminal charges, making liability no matter what. And BDSM role-play isn’t the problem. Besides risky, or even deadly activity that BDSM advocates discourage, the ring goes way farther in targeting victims for rape and worse.

This chat happens after Tane says he sedated someone for sex at Midwest Furfest.

Trying to get help [September 2018-July 2019]

The big furry convention in San Jose, CA is Further Confusion. Then there’s a small one at their old hotel, PAWcon. It feels like a nice personal party for a few hundred friends. I’ve known some of them for years. The con was about 6 weeks away when the zoosadist leaks shocked furries around the world. Probably few of them noticed Tane mentioning a visit to PAWcon in his own back yard.

Tane made plans to rape people at furry events. You’d think PAWcon would want to know about a safety risk to attendees, being reported by one. But when I tried to privately alert the con chair(s), the responses called it “none of your business” and a “wild goose chase”. Weird.

The weirdness involved a few people, not the whole staff. Eventually when I tried again (with the 2019 con coming soon), a caring and professional board member listened and found crime records of ring members supporting this story.  If they’re limited to only watching for safety, at least someone cared. I wish the pro response wasn’t such a contrast to conflict of interest and negligence. (Personal details are kept limited below for neutral reporting.)

Tane has friends on con staff.

A week after the leaks, I was contacted by PAWcon’s A/V lead, Leko. Leko was one of Tane’s partners (a surprise to me). I was asked “as a friend” to not tell Tane’s name after it was forwarded to me by concerned tippers. Leko claimed their house would get hurt with cyber bullying, and Tane was in the ring to get info (except he didn’t call police about things that did cause arrests when leaked). It was inconsistent as a cover story, and helped authenticate the logs from a PAWcon staffer.

I liked Leko from being at events together, like one I organize with other PAWcon staff. If my event had a safety issue, of course I would be a friend and not say it isn’t my fight (posted by Leko at time of the leaks.) But the police need tips about a crime ring, and that comes from knowing who’s in it, not hiding a safety risk from the public. (You can’t realistically report an internet handle; isn’t it convenient to say “go to police” while trying to hold back the means?)

Leko teams up with Tane and a friend, Ratchet Fox, as A/V staff at events like Fur Con, TFF and BLFC. Those are big jobs with millions in equipment. That gets my respect. I visited Ratchet’s place right after the leaks happened, where he called Leko a best friend and mentioned helping at PAWcon. Ratchet was also friend/patron to Kero the Wolf on Patreon before the leaks, and was upset about Kero’s claims of being bullied for being in the ring.

Laveur, 2018 chair of PAWcon, had been landlord to Ratchet and Leko. (Some info of interest is redacted for privacy.) They shared the house at times and hosted parties I went to. Was it a house Leko brought up to protect? (There’s more houses tying to this story and in Tane’s logs.)

At PAWcon I tried talking to Laveur privately. The chair blocked me for asking who Tane was.

Next I tried Spectrum, Laveur’s 2018 co-chair and the chair for 2019. I tried him twice in 7 months. Spectrum said he would look into it when I named Tane. He didn’t.

On the second try, Spectrum said he’d never heard of Tane. Instead of asking about the safety issue or explaining his con’s policy, he questioned reports to other cons. That set up an excuse to dismiss it (skipping over whether other reports were secure and confidential for victims, or unsafe to leak to friends of Tane). He ignored ones named including Further Confusion, and after already failing to look, it was blown off again with insinuations about bad faith reporting of a “wild goose chase”. Then he denied any personal association to Leko — or anyone associated with Leko — his staff, tenant and friend of other staff, and partner of a wild goose at his con.

One can only fear what a rape target might face in these circumstances.

This isn’t a “callout” (it could be less neutral if it wasn’t just about trying to get help.) This is my mouth agape at how Tane wasn’t even considered a safety risk, but people who ask about it get blocked. And how chat logs (authenticated by a staffer) get suspicion — at the reporter — but ties to a crime ring don’t, while staff who know party with Tane. It feels bad to put names in a story, but it can’t be told without parts that influence management.

In the past I was asked to help PAWcon and I love volunteering, but this needed responsive management. Writing about it here is the least preferable alternative. I wish I wasn’t put in a position of pointing out that turning a blind eye to rape can cost more than listening to reports. Hopefully it can bring better informed handling, and help others who need to be heard, so the con can improve and succeed for all the good people involved.

How some staff responded over months of trying to get help

  1. [November 2018:] During PAWcon, the chair (and board VP) Laveur blocks me and refers the issue to his under-staffer (partner of Tane, who I was trying to report).
  2. [December 2018:] Around when I first contacted Spectrum, Ratchet says people with problems should talk privately — which I kept trying — what a runaround! 
  3. [July 2019:] Right after a 2nd try to alert Spectrum (new chair for the upcoming con), his thoughts on Twitter.
  4. Older posts to a big group, the first time a public issue was made by con staff in this article, showing a prejudice not to listen to any reports. I still tried for months.

(What is consistency?

A core clique across cons

This isn’t just reporting a personal experience. The chat logs have a clue to another significant connection between Tane and the ringleader Snakething.

There’s a wealthy benefactor who Snakething says will pay without limits for animal sex tourism to make porn for the ring. Someone who helps to plan a “hardzoo” meet in the woods in the EU (with ring member Sephius.) Someone referred to as “ZB”, who’s very secretive and knows Tane, but Snakething takes great care before revealing the identity.

The name comes out as Xyro/Zentra (@xyrotr1.) Tane is astonished that they work at two cons together. Xyro helped to run the Brony fandom’s most popular website Equestria Daily, was A/V director for Nightmare Nights Dallas, and staff at Anthrocon. He was A/V staff at Texas Furry Fiesta (2014-2018). Meanwhile, TFF had Ratchet as A/V director (2014-2018) and Leko was A/V crew, and other crew like Simon are roommate/close friends with Ratchet, Leko and Tane. (There’s no sign that con staffers besides two people in the ring knew about zoosadism until the chat leaks, but responses are an ongoing issue.)

Xyro’s “experiment with many animals”

For plans with Xyro, Snakething says they want to “rape a pup” together. He says they would cut the limbs off and violate a puppy in a way shown in snuff porn videos he shares, explode one with fireworks, or break their jaws to force oral sex, which Tane approves joining in. It raises the con safety issue about drugs/rape, and leads to pushing sadism as far as sex with headless bodies or severed heads — which is in videos they share (some made by ring member Woof in Cuba.)

The info is bolstered by forwards of Xyro sharing secrets and referenced as member of the anything-goes hardzoo group where the worst content was made.

The source (Snakething) is a real person who really rapes puppies and was arrested for it.

A “Zoo Witch Hunt”

From the morning of the chat leaks (9/16/18, 6:40 a.m.), Twitter has traces showing Xyro claimed impersonation almost instantly. A handful of notices about this shows little “mob,” but his account was closed and then accounts were deleted in many places.

In August 2019, I contacted a TFF board member to ask if Xyro was on staff. There was a short answer that he stopped going to cons due to a “zoo witch hunt” and then the chat was wiped and blocked like a slap in the face. The board member even locked their twitter and posted insults behind it. For a question. Weird.

That board member had welcomed tips I gave in early 2018 about 3 people. Multiple sources contacted me for help because they faced retaliation for speaking about sex predators on staff at TFF. It got taken seriously, and Sebris, the AV/DJ Coordinator for TFF in 2014-2018, was let go after I shared evidence about sex with minors and threats received by a whistleblower. (Notice that the con wasn’t named due to appropriate handling then). I approached with the same good faith for private talk again. This really struck a nerve.

Formerly a trusted contact to tip about safety issues.

Confidential to Savrin: I’ve had pressure not to post this part, and I answered that it follows a pattern of trying to report privately and being rebuffed by con staff over a year of effort. It was suggested to try placation to bring sources to my side to corroborate about Xyro. I said I would take a block at face value and it’s not about gaining favor or smearing anyone, but reporting the story as it comes. This isn’t personal, everyone makes mistakes or has knee-jerk reactions, and I’m happy to talk more with problem solving in mind. Staying firm about reporting already brought important tips that tie in and haven’t yet been touched by this story. It’s bigger and needs more attention.

Why in the A/V crew? [Now]

As one of the original internet subcultures, furry fandom makes a niche for this ring. Skills to set up events can overlap with tech skills to cover things up. Video trading ties to Tane’s skills in video setup, with frequent discussion in the logs about how to secretly record sex.

With TFF’s former AV/DJ coordinator Sebris, whistleblowers cited power of popularity at key events for the community. It made a climate of hostility to whistleblowing. That hits hard on LGBT minors, who can’t easily report abuse without risk of being outed or worse at home.

A/V work is key to how furry cons succeed, from what Ratchet told me — BLFC spares no expense on their main stage, with over a million in equipment and one of the fandom’s largest budgets, because that’s the crossroads of the con. Some named here are “core AV staff” for many furry cons.

Naturally, friends stick together, and being friends isn’t the issue; it’s about non-responsive handling. Although only two here directly tie to a ring (Xyro and Tane), ties to zoosadism behind the good vibes of con dances are the starkest meeting of the light side and dark side of fandom. These staffers can take credit for lots of good work with lighting dances — maybe they would like to shine a light on what hides in their shadow.

AV staff/friend/roommate with Tane, Leko, and Ratchet, posting at time of the chat leaks.

8 months later… Who would ever drug someone’s drink? How could we ever find out? What would a  con staffer do if fellow con staff was involved?

When cons have conflicts, snitches get stitches — what about policy reform?

Love goes to volunteers who support cons for the benefit of others. For the benefit of others shouldn’t mean zoosadists who plan rape.

Callouts get complaints, sometimes in good faith, but how about that toxic loyalty? Conflicts of interest in management and failure to even consider repeat reports can make reporting to anyone be a minefield. It’s not the job of people bringing issues forward to keep trying to overcome a wall of silence.

Caution is reasonable. Action can come with liability. It’s not easy to ban people (which I never requested). But with text evidence, news reports and court records showing a crime ring in the community, it’s negligent to ignore and self-defeating to flip retaliation back (remember how RMFC collapsed?) I’ve seen backlash by a certain clique since the chat leaks, and more is predictable.

Wouldn’t it help to take this seriously with clearer conduct policies for staff, or a staffer dedicated to adult issues (drugs, sex, consent, rape crisis response training) to bring the culture up to date from family-friendly PR of the past? How about a unified policy across cons so they don’t pass the buck to other cons about people who depart for bad reasons?

It’s an issue in many communities (not just furries), according to a founder of Bronycon (Purple Tinker), who protested cons being unwilling to make “drama” about each other following nonresponse about a pedophile on staff.

Let’s return to a story thread that highlights inconsistency across different cons.

PAWcon’s sex offenders

Current PAWcon chair Spectrum oversaw 2018 staffer Growly, whose sex offense record got many complaints about con handling. Luckily Growly was let go from staff in early 2019. It only gets mentioned for the risk of favoring staff like that. His re-arrest in July 2019 made me bring up Tane again to Spectrum.

I also tried twice to bring up Sangie of Inkedfur, a dealer at PAWcon and convicted sex offender. He was a focus of independent tips to this site about grooming teens, and teamed up with the ringleader SnakeThing to groom his underage nephew in the chat logs. When it came out in the leaks, Sangie tried to excuse his chat history as “sarcasm” and tried to appear cooperative as if to excuse his other face. He was a source for forwarded messages direct from Snakething admitting raping a puppy.

Sangie was claiming to have his record expunged, he was already known to police, and there were delicate legal issues, so this got backchannel attention.

Fur Con’s policy about sex offenders: a strikingly different response [December 2018]

Between tries to alert PAWcon, I made reports to cons most likely to be affected.

Further Confusion was soon and named in the chat logs. They listened professionally and immediately changed their Code of Conduct. (I keep secure documenting but I don’t speak for them). I also asked them to forward info to PAWcon so it wasn’t just from me. Fur Con was beyond helpful, and it couldn’t have been more different from responses like “cyber bullying/wild goose chase/witch hunt”. This wasn’t asked for, and I told them I wasn’t planning a story at the time, which made it their private choice from just listening.

Fur con’s response:

“AAE and FurCon do not permit membership or attendance by any individual who is a convicted sex offender, or appears on any federal or state sex offender registry. In addition, AAE and FurCon reserve the right, at the board’s discretion, to deny membership or attendance to anyone with a documented history of sexual violence, including inappropriate conduct towards minors.”

Texas Furry Fiesta added a similar rule in June 2019 (prior to board member response above.)

Publishing Part 1 led to DEFCON Furs taking action about Tane with an official statement from the board that they do not tolerate abusive behavior.

Going on pause, then a new development [June 2019]

Evidence of the ring was delivered to police in late 2018. There couldn’t be any predictions and results could take years if ever. By Fur Con in January 2019, I stopped expecting much new info to come out. I moved ahead with other stories but kept working to monitor (part of the hundreds of hours put in).

Then in June, an unexpected piece of info turned up that needed reporting to police. The police said the chat logs made a worthwhile case, but jurisdiction and type of proof came up. An internet ring made incidents across agencies, and what about photos/videos to show who did what?

A tech platform for evasion, and a catch-22 for proof.

Telegram is a messaging service liked by terrorists, illegal file traders, furries, and many mainstream users for an alternative to big tech corps. It was founded by a Russian billionaire for encrypted communication safe from Putin’s spying (or is it?) Billionaire funding means no monetization. Support is in Dubai.

Here’s why a shady ring likes it:

  • Telegram Secret Chat encrypts and destroys messages. (Forbes.com: “Going dark” makes “a long-running feud between federal authorities and Silicon Valley.”)
  • Telegram support told me that Telegram doesn’t disclose user activity; ring members chatted about it needing multiple court orders around the world (all they might get is a phone number.) Other people seeking help couldn’t get responses for reports about predators targeting children.
  • User practices also throw off exposure. That includes trading accounts or holding blackmail evidence for “insurance”.

If it’s about illegal files, you can’t just possess them to prove it. If traders like Tane have infosec skills, they don’t “possess” them either, they encrypt and cover tracks when trading. The ring tells each other how to dodge getting caught, and how proof needs faces in photos. Tane’s chat logs have files removed.

(November 2017) Snakething gives cover-up advice to another zoosadist, who he learned is being reported for trading animal snuff porn and planning to rape babies.

Coverup behind technicality isn’t innocence. What we know right now is social evidence. You can see the chats happened, how they’re corroborated, and who’s in them. Waiting for investigation may take forever. Meanwhile, Kero and the ringleader Snakething got away with charges because video evidence was too old.

See the catch-22 of waiting to bring attention?

The gap

There’s many things police have power to do that fans don’t, things the community knows that police don’t, and things neither can do without more attention. The gap between is where this ring thrives. Event and group managers have a better position to bridge the gap than others.

There was a huge gap between responses from PAWcon and Fur Con about this story. It’s challenging to parse, but I’m grateful to Fur Con for being the heroes (and PAWcon staff who did care) and showing that this isn’t just a “wild goose chase” or muck raking to ignore. My (very costly) part in reporting the story now goes to the community, because knowledge is power.

Next: more details of info reported to police, and here’s where I really get to use free speech.

More — Part 1): Exposing the ring. Part 2): Running scared. Part 3): Investigation blocked. Part 4): A new development. Part 5): Interview with an expert.

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