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September 20, 2016Seattle, United StatesChild Exploitation

22 arrested in western Washington child predator sting

SEATTLE – A multi-agency law enforcement operation in Thurston County targeting individuals intending to sexually exploit children resulted in the arrest of 21 males and one female, and the rescue of four children at risk of being abused.

The operation, which took place Sept. 9-14, was the result of a probe by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI).

"The significant investigative, surveillance and computer forensics support from our Homeland Security Investigations special agents proves that we leave no stone unturned when it comes to removing these predators from our communities" said Steve Cagen, acting special agent in charge of HSI Seattle. "The staggering number of arrests achieved through interagency cooperation are a testament to our combined passion to prevent future harm to innocent children."

HSI undercover agents communicated online with individuals interested in sexually abusing children through various websites. The agents received hundreds of responses from would-be perpetrators who agreed to meet with undercover detectives posing as children in order to engage in sexual activity.

"It's vital we take these child predators off the streets and keep our children safe," said Washington State Patrol Chief John Batiste. "Through collaboration with our partners, we are making the internet safer for kids and are also able to protect the most vulnerable community members from abuse."

The case was investigated with assistance from the Washington State Patrol's (WSP) Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), Thurston County Sheriff’s Office, the  Olympia, Turnwater, Lacey, and Shelton police departments, Thurston County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Washington State Dept. of Corrections, Kitsap County Sheriff’s Office, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, FBI, Washington State Office of the Attorney General, Thurston County Narcotic Task Force,  U. S. Army, Criminal Division and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Washington.

The charges in this case are a product of Project Safe Childhood, a Department of Justice initiative launched in 2006 to combat the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse, and HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators.

Led by the U.S. Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to locate, apprehend, and prosecute those who sexually exploit children, and to identify and rescue victims.

Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 14,000 individuals for crimes against children, including the production and distribution of online child pornography, traveling overseas for sex with minors, and sex trafficking of children. In fiscal year 2015, nearly 2,400 individuals were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 1,000 victims identified or rescued.

For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page.