U.S. Customs and Immigration Homeland Security Investigations have announced the arrest of dozens of suspected child predators and said they helped save 15 children in an international operation involving more than 100 raids in a half a dozen countries last week.
Between June 8 and 11, HSI and its counterparts in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, Panama and Ecuador carried out near-simultaneous raids against alleged producers and distributors of “child sexual abuse material” or explicit content involving children that the authorities refer to as CSAM.
According to investigators, many suspects were using the anonymous chat app Kik to communicate and share documents.
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HSI agents in Texas have caught an illegal immigrant who is a convicted sex offender with two pending arrest warrants. In New York, they arrested a man who allegedly owned around 10,000 CSAM files and admitted to sexually abusing minors for over 20 years.
The task force rescued 15 children in Argentina on June 11 while executing a search warrant, authorities said.
Operation Protected Childhood 8 involved more than 170 search warrants and led to 86 arrests in three days.
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The original Operation Protected Childhood took place in Brazil in 2015, according to ICE, and over the years the program has expanded to other countries. Last year, the operation resulted in 113 arrests in five countries. Since 2017, authorities have said they have made 861 arrests in the series of operations and rescued dozens of children.
“This operation is a collaborative effort of HSI and our overseas law enforcement partners that helped remove child predators from our streets,” said ICE attaché Robert Fuentes Jr. . in a press release. “Thank you to our Brazilian partners for your unwavering efforts over the past six years to combat child exploitation through Operation Protected Childhood. And to our growing international and national partnerships, we thank you for all your hard work in putting these perpetrators behind bars and keeping children safe. “
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HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; TTY for the hearing impaired: 802-872-6196.
Suspicions of child sexual exploitation or missing children can also be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, a partner of Operation Predator, at 1-800-843-5678 or at report.cybertip.org .
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