U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, in a collaborative effort with international law enforcement, have arrested 113 alleged child sexual predators across the United States and South America.
ICE explained in a statement released Thursday that it's Homeland Security Investigations department partnered with the Brazil Ministry of Justice and the Public Security as well as Brazil's Secretariat for Integrated Operation Cyber Laboratory as part of Operation Protected Childhood.
The accused predators were arrested between Nov. 2 and Nov. 6.
Robert Fuentes Jr., ICE's attaché for Brazil and Bolivia, said in a statement that he was thankful to Brazilian partners "for their unwavering efforts over the last five years to combat child exploitation through Operation Protected Childhood.”
“This collaborative effort by ICE's Homeland Security Investigations and its foreign law enforcement partners has put dangerous criminals behind bars and, most importantly, has led to the rescue of innocent children,” Fuentes stated.
“And to our partners who have most recently joined our operation, we look forward to the continued fight and relentless effort to put a stop to this horrific crime.”
The 113 arrests include 74 in Brazil, 23 in Argentina, five in Panama, two in Paraguay and nine in the U.S.
According to ICE, HSI Brasilia has partnered with the non-governmental organization Child Rescue Coalition to combat child exploitation through the use of Child Protection Software. Between fiscal years 2016 and 2019, HSI provided 11 technical training exercises on the use of the software to law enforcement agencies in Brazil and other Latin American countries.
The training has led to multiple investigations into child exploitation offenses in those countries, ICE reports.
Since 2017, Operation Protected Childhood has resulted in about 781 arrests, the rescue of dozens of victims and 1,383 executed search warrants.
Over the past couple of months, law enforcement entities like the U.S. Marshals Service have undertaken major operations aimed at rescuing children from abusers and traffickers.
In September, for example, the Marshals announced that local and federal law enforcers rescued more than 70 missing minors in the Great Lakes regions as part of “Operation Homecoming."
The Marshals worked alongside the Great Lakes Regional Fugitive Task Force, the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children.
“The Marshals are committed to assisting state and local agencies with locating and recovering endangered missing children to help prevent their falling victim to crimes of violence and exploitation,” said U.S. Marshal for the Southern District of Indiana Dan McClain in a statement at the time.
“The message that we wish to convey to the missing children and their families is that we will use every resource at our disposal to find you.”
During a similar operation in Virginia, federal authorities rescued 27 missing and exploited children, as well as confirmed the whereabouts of six others reported missing.
“The Department of Justice is dedicated to protecting the most vulnerable children in our society and ‘Operation Find Our Children’ does just that,” said Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey A. Rosen in a statement last month.
“While this Virginia operation is the most recent recovery of endangered and missing children led by the U.S. Marshals Service this year, we have also recovered more than 440 kids in Georgia, Ohio, Indiana, Louisiana, and other states. Because of this initiative, the recovered children are now out of harm’s way.”