Federal agents, in a month-long nationwide sting called "Operation Orion," captured 190 suspected child predators and rescued 18 victims. Many of the cases were linked to how children used the Internet.
"Operation Orion" was carried out in May by special agents from the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations unit, and targeted people who were suspected to have "possessed, received, transported, distributed, advertised or produced images or videos of child pornography."
"With the advent of summer vacation, children may have more time and access to the Internet, making this a good time to talk to them about online dangers. Many of the child exploitation cases under 'Operation Orion' began with a child or teen chatting with someone he or she met online," said ICE Director John Morton in a press release.
Most of the arrests happened in the U.S., but some also occurred in Spain, the Philippines, Argentina and the United Kingdom. The special agents are said to have used "the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups and peer-to-peer trading."
The 190 arrests were only a small portion of the number of cases Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents usually have to deal with in a year. In 2011, there were more than 3,000 investigations into child exploitation, and a total of 1,455 arrests, a news release by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's shared. Details for the 18 rescued victims were not revealed.
The press release exposed, however, a number of the suspected criminals and included information on charges they were facing. One Michigan resident was arrested on an outstanding federal arrest warrant for manufacturing and possessing child pornography. The man "allegedly persuaded an underage boy to participate with him in illegal sexual conduct while he photographed the encounters." Another man, a Louisiana resident, is believed to have sexually assaulted a 7-year-old victim whom he babysat.
"Let this operation be a warning to anyone who would think they can use the Internet to exploit children: we are out there looking for you, we will find you, and you will be prosecuted," Morton warned.