Two hundred and fifty-five child predators were arrested and 61 victims of child sexual exploitation identified during a five-week operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces across the United States and its territories.
Operation iGuardian, which ran May 28 to June 30, was a surge operation conducted as part of HSI’s Operation Predator to identify and rescue victims of online sexual exploitation and to arrest their abusers as well as others who own, trade and produce images of child pornography.
“Protecting our youth in the digital age requires all of us to be on the lookout for child predators abusing and extorting victims online,” said ICE Director John Morton. “Children and parents need to understand that not everyone online is who they say they are. Child abusers prowl social media looking for opportunities to force young people into sexual exploitation through guile, deceit, and extortion. We want children to know that it’s wrong for any adult to solicit or pressure them for sex and that the law is on their side.”
According to investigators, a “disturbing trend” is emerging in which child predators are increasingly using the Internet to entice children to produce and share sexually explicit material online. During Operation iGuardian, HSI and ICAC investigators encountered various child predators chatting online with minors about sexual topics, sending them obscene images, encouraging them to produce nude or sexual photos and videos, and attempting to meet them in person to engage in sexual activity. In some cases, child predators are also sexually extorting or “sextorting” the minors into producing additional and increasingly graphic images and videos.