More than 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders were arrested in a nationwide sting called Operation “Broken Heart”. Forty-Seven of these arrests were tied to Washington State.
Nine of these offenders will be prosecuted federally, with the remaining facing state charges.
None of the defendants hail from Grays Harbor or Pacific Counties.
The Department of Justice announced the arrest of the suspected online child sex offenders during a three-month, nationwide, operation conducted by Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces.
61 task forces, located in all 50 states and comprised of more than 4,500 federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, led the coordinated operation known as “Broken Heart” during the months of March, April, and May 2018. During the course of the operation, the task forces investigated more than 25,200 complaints of technology-facilitated crimes against children and delivered more than 3,700 presentations on Internet safety to over 390,000 youth and adults.
The task forces identified 195 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and 383 children who suffered recent, ongoing, or historical sexual abuse or production of child pornography.
In Washington, 47 offenders who were sharing images of child sexual abuse over peer-to-peer networks were identified and arrested.
“Sadly, Washington State consistently ranks among the top states for the sharing of images of child rape and molestation across peer-to-peer file sharing networks,” said U.S. Attorney Annette L. Hayes. “I commend the investigators who do the difficult work of investigating those who create and share these horrific images. Their work puts predators behind bars where they cannot continue to hurt children.”
In Washington State the leads for peer-to-peer sharing of child pornography average 18,000-24,000 annually, putting the state in the top five with California, New York, Texas and Florida. The Washington ICAC focused specifically on the problem of peer-to-peer file sharing during Operation Broken Hearts.
“No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse,” said Attorney General Jeff Sessions. “And yet, in recent years, certain forms of modern technology have facilitated the spread of child pornography and created greater incentives for its production. We at the Department of Justice are determined to strike back against these repugnant crimes. It is shocking and very sad that in this one operation, we have arrested more than 2,300 alleged child predators and investigated some 25,200 sexual abuse complaints. Any would-be criminal should be warned: this Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children.”
The operation targeted suspects who: (1) produce, distribute, receive and possess child pornography; (2) engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; (3) engage in the sex trafficking of children; and (4) travel across state lines or to foreign countries and sexually abuse children.
In 1998, the ICAC Task Force Program was launched to help federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies enhance their response to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems or computer technology to exploit children. To date, ICAC Task Forces have reviewed more than 775,000 complaints of child exploitation, which resulted in the arrest of more than 83,000 individuals. In addition, since the ICAC program’s inception, more than 629,400 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other professionals have been trained on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC-related cases.