WASHINGTON — One hundred and ninety individuals were arrested and 18 victims identified and rescued by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) special agents during a month-long, nationwide operation targeting individuals who possessed, received, transported, distributed, advertised or produced images or videos of child pornography.
"With the advent of summer vacation, children may have more time and access to the Internet, making this a good time to talk to them about online dangers. Many of the child exploitation cases under Operation Orion began with a child or teen chatting with someone he or she met online," said ICE Director John Morton. "Let this operation be a warning to anyone who would think they can use the Internet to exploit children: we are out there looking for you, we will find you, and you will be prosecuted."
Operation Orion took place May 1 to 31. Arrests were made by HSI special agents and partner law enforcement agencies. The majority of arrests were made throughout the United States, but also included arrests in Spain, the Philippines, Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Those arrested included:
- Andrew Hallock, 28, of Sebastian, Fla., arrested May 2 in Sebastian for possession of child pornography and illegal sexual enticement of a 15-year-old victim he met online.
- Cedric Conner, 35, of Lafayette, La., arrested May 4 in Lafayette for production of child pornography based on his sexual assault of a 7-year-old victim, whom Conner babysat.
- Joshua Stewart, 23, of Rochester, N.Y., arrested in Rochester May 4 for coercion and enticement of a minor via the Internet, which began as "sexting" with the 13-year-old.
- Andrew McKee, 35, of Oklahoma City, Okla., arrested in Garland, Texas, May 9 for coercion and enticement of a minor via the Internet. McKee met the 14-year-old victim on a social networking site and continued to harass the victim via texts, offering money in exchange for sex.
- Thomas Wright, 54, of Bangor, Mich., arrested May 16 at his residence in Bangor on an outstanding federal arrest warrant for manufacturing and possessing child pornography. Wright allegedly persuaded an underage boy to participate with him in illegal sexual conduct while he photographed the encounters. Wright also secretly videotaped the boy involved in other sexual activity. Wright later transported the images from his home in Michigan to Florida.
- Michael Wojcik, 28, of Warren, Mich., arrested May 18. Wojcik turned himself in to HSI Detroit after being charged in a criminal complaint for receipt and possession of child pornography. A search warrant executed at his home revealed more than 1,200 images and 109 videos of suspected child pornography on computers and media storage devices.
Operation Orion was overseen by HSI's Child Exploitation Investigations Unit in Washington.
Last fiscal year, HSI initiated more than 3,000 cases into child exploitation and made 1,455 arrests. In that same year, the HSI Computer Forensics Program examined the equivalent of 16.5 million filing cabinets of data related to child exploitation cases.
The Child Exploitation Investigations Unit investigates the trans-border, large-scale production and distribution of images of child abuse, as well as individuals who travel abroad to engage in sex with minors. The unit employs the latest technology to collect evidence and track the activities of individuals and organized groups who sexually exploit children through the use of websites, chat rooms, newsgroups and peer-to-peer trading. These investigative activities are organized under Operation Predator, a program managed by the Child Exploitation Investigations Unit.
Operation Predator is a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.