Nearly 240 alleged child molesters have been arrested in Southern California in just two months. It came as part of a nationwide crackdown on child sex abusers that netted nearly 1,400 predators, including a religious official and white-collar businessmen.
“Operation Broken Heart III” was launched over the last two months by all 61 Internet Crimes against Children (ICAC) task forces, a US Department of Justice agency. The operation “resulted in the arrest of over 238 child predators,” the Los Angeles Police Department said in a statement on Monday.
All the arrests are related to charges of possession and distribution of child pornography, sexual exploitation of children, child prostitution and sex tourism, major crimes on the ICAC’s radar across the US.
Focusing primarily on online interactions, investigators used forensic equipment kept inside a mobile crime lab dubbed “The Beast.” It scans through hard drives for any illicit images, the LA Times reported.
The effort has potentially saved a 6-year old boy, who an Australian citizen wanted to buy for sex on US soil.
Michael Quinn, 33, was arrested in a Los Angeles hotel, after telling undercover agents in an online conversation that he hoped to get a boy for $250 and engage him in illicit sex.
According to prosecutors, Quinn also planned to party with other child molesters and have sex with young boys.
Quinn wasn’t the only foreigner to get caught in the LAPD’s net. In June, a 70-year-old British man, Paul Charles Wilkins, was named in a four-count superseding indictment that added child pornography charges to his previous counts. These stemmed from his visit to the US with the intention to have sex with boys aged between 10 and 12.
Among those arrested is also a Laotian monk, Kounzong Saebphang, who came to the US on a religious worker’s visa. He was detained at the Wat Lao Buddhist Monastery in Riverside, California, in early June on suspicion of possessing and distributing child pornography.
Saebphang, 26, has been under investigation since last year. Inquiries into the monk’s activities were launched after the Riverside County Sexual Assault Felony Enforcement (SAFE) task force received information that he was possibly involved in child pornography distribution.
— RT America (@RT_America) June 18, 2016
The LAPD was one of 61 ICAC task forces and more than 3,000 federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across the US.
Between April and May, the crackdown on cyber predators resulted in 1,368 arrests, the LAPD spokesperson confirmed to ABC. (RT)