U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced this week that more than a hundred alleged child predators have been arrested as part of a joint effort with international partners in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Panama.
A total of 113 alleged child predators across the United States and South America were arrested during the federal crackdown from Nov. 2 to 6 during phase seven of Operation Protected Childhood, ICE said in a news release.
Operation Protected Childhood was initiated in 2015 by ICE Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in partnership with Brazil’s MJSP Cyber Lab to increase the effectiveness of online child exploitation investigations.
“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,” ICE attaché for Brazil and Bolivia, Robert Fuentes Jr., said in a statement.
As part of the operation, a resident of San Fernando Valley, California, was arrested after he was accused of using Twitter’s direct messaging feature to distribute child pornography.
In North Carolina on Nov. 6, a federal arrest warrant was executed on a suspect for the production, transportation, and possession of child pornography. The suspect allegedly posted child pornography on Kik chat rooms, and hundreds of images were subsequently located by forensics.
A day earlier in Panama City, Florida, police executed a residential search warrant for possession and distribution of child pornography after receiving a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children indicating that the target of investigation had used the Facebook Messenger app to distribute files of child pornography. One person was arrested during the search warrant for child exploitative material, while two others were arrested for narcotics possession.
Other arrests were made across the United States, including in Denver, Nashville, Knoxville, and Pittsburgh.
“ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; TTY for hearing impaired: (802) 872-6196,” the agency’s website reads. “This hotline is staffed around-the-clock by investigators.”
“Thank you to our Brazilian partners for their unwavering efforts over the last five years to combat child exploitation through Operation Protected Childhood. 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,” Fuentes Jr. added.