RICHLAND, Wash. – A multiagency law enforcement operation in Washington’s tri-cities area targeting individuals intending to sexually exploit children resulted in the arrest of 26 suspects, including five individuals with access to children at risk of being abused.
The operation, which took place July 5-10, was the result of a probe by the Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF) including U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (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.
“Children are becoming increasingly vulnerable to sexual predators due to the growth of the internet,” says WSP Chief John R. Batiste.” Thanks to the hard work by our law enforcement and prosecutor partners we are able to make Washington communities safer for our families.”
Additional follow-up investigations are currently underway to identify child victims and arrange the appropriate assistance for any abuse they may have been exposed to. Crimes investigated range from attempted rape of a child to communicating with a minor for immoral purposes.
This is the eighth such operation in Washington state since August 2015. MECTF, an Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force affiliate, includes partners in federal, state and local law enforcement. The “Net Nanny Operation” series, conducted throughout Washington, has netted a total of 115 arrests and rescued 21 identified victims.
The case was investigated in collaboration with the Washington State Patrol MECTF, Southeast Region ICAC Task Force, Richland Police Department, Kennewick Police Department, Benton County Sheriff’s Office, the Olympia, Benton County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office, Washington State Office of the Attorney General, Washington State Patrol and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Washington.
This investigation was conducted under HSI’s Operation Predator, an international initiative to protect children from sexual predators. Since the launch of Operation Predator in 2003, HSI has arrested more than 16,000 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 2016, more than 2,600 child predators were arrested by HSI special agents under this initiative and more than 800 victims identified or rescued.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free Tip Line at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators. From outside the U.S. and Canada, callers should dial 802-872-6199. Hearing impaired users can call TTY 802-872-6196.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.
For additional information about wanted suspected child predators, download HSI’s Operation Predator smartphone app or visit the online suspect alerts page. HSI is a founding member of the Virtual Global Taskforce, an international alliance of law enforcement agencies and private industry sector partners working together to prevent and deter online child sexual abuse.