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Child Exploitation

ICE joins multi-agency crackdown on Internet child sex predators in San Diego and Imperial counties

SAN DIEGO - In an unprecedented crackdown on Internet child sex predators, federal and state charges have been filed against 25 individuals for violations related to the sexual exploitation of children, including the possession and distribution of child pornography.

Law enforcement officials announced the results of the month-long cooperative effort dubbed "Operation Artemis" Friday, noting that the enforcement action was conducted by the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which includes U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) along with 19 other federal, state and local agencies.

"ICE and its law enforcement partners in San Diego share a common goal to protect children from child sex predators on the Internet," said Joe Garcia, acting special agent in charge for ICE Office of Investigations in San Diego. "While no single law enforcement agency can tackle this pervasive online threat alone, there is strength in collaboration. We are committed to identifying and bringing to justice those who rob children of their innocence by trading sexually explicit images of those young people with other predators around the world."

The arrestees in Operation Artemis, all men, represented a wide variety of occupations, ranging from real estate and sales to the hospitality industry. While most of those taken into custody were San Diego-area residents, they also included a registered sex offender in El Centro and an Annandale, N.J., man, who was implicated after he attempted to solicit sex from an ICE undercover agent posing online as a minor from Calexico, Calif.

In addition to ICE, other agencies participating in Operation Artemis were the FBI, the U.S. Attorney's Office, the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the Defense Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Regional Computer Forensics Laboratory, the San Diego and Riverside county sheriff's departments, the San Diego and Riverside county district attorney's offices, and the police departments for San Diego, Chula Vista, National City, La Mesa, Oceanside, El Cajon and San Diego University.

ICE's participation in this enforcement action was carried out under the auspices of Operation Predator, a nationwide ICE initiative to identify, investigate and arrest those who prey on children, including human traffickers, international sex tourists, Internet pornographers, and foreign-national predators. ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators.

Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.