SAN DIEGO – More than two dozen individuals are facing felony child exploitation charges in San Diego County Superior Court following their arrest by special agents with ICE Homeland Security Investigations child exploitation group in San Diego.
The arrests were made in April during a two-week undercover investigation aimed at identifying and arresting United States citizens and international visitors who intended to travel to the local area to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors using various social media networking applications. In addition to netting 14 arrests, a group of 12 suspects derived during the undercover probe remain under investigation.
Federal officers with U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Air and Marine Operations and the HSI Special Response Team assisted during the operation.
“I commend the dedicated work by our agents and our federal partners who worked diligently to arrest an array of child predators who were dangerously scouring the Internet in search of their next victim,” said David Shaw, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations in San Diego. “As shown in this case, HSI will continue to work hard at combating criminal activity across all borders, including Internet crimes.”
“The men and women of Air and Marine Operations were able to bring a unique and vital skillset to this operation,” said Hunter Davis, Director of Operations for the San Diego Air and Marine branch of CBP. “Together with our partners we were able to serve one of the most important roles in law enforcement – protecting children by removing predators from our communities.”
According to HSI investigators, the suspects were taken into custody after they arrived at pre-arranged locations to meet with what they believed to be underage females.
The arrests included four individuals in active duty U.S. military positions, a registered sex offender with a history of child abuse, and during one arrest, the suspect drove to the meet-up location in a stolen vehicle. The ages of the individuals arrested ranged from 21 to 70 years old.
The felony charges filed in filed in state court include:
Contacting a Minor with Intent to Commit a Felony;
Arranging a Meeting with a Minor for Lewd Purposes; and