Federal customs agents in San Francisco held a news conference Friday announcing the arrest of 190 people as part of a sting operation targeting child pornography.
A total of 14 suspects are from Northern California, according to Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations. Eight people were arrested in Fresno, three people were arrested in Bakersfield and one person was arrested in Sacramento.
The month-long operation in May included the indictment of 89 defendants, including French national, Nicolas Perret, 41, originally detained at San Francisco International Airport. The May 17 indictment charges Perret with three counts of sexual exploitation of children and one count of transporting child pornography. Perret has entered a not guilty plea.
Perret was arrested in March by U.S. Customs and Border Protection officers following his arrival at the airport after officers found images of child pornography on his computer and cell phone.
The investigation revealed that Perret, allegedly posing as a 16-year-old boy, communicated over the Internet with three young teenage girls in the United States, enticing them to engage in sexually explicit conduct which he then recorded.
Most of the suspects were in the United States, but authorities said suspects were also arrested in Spain, the Philippines, Argentina and the United Kingdom.
Last year, Homeland Security initiated more than 3,000 investigations involving child exploitation offenses and made 1,455 arrests. During that same time frame, the HSI Computer Forensics Program examined the equivalent of 16.5 million filing cabinets of data related to child exploitation cases.
Operation Predator is a nationwide HSI initiative to protect children from sexual predators, including those who travel overseas for sex with minors, Internet child pornographers, criminal alien sex offenders and child sex traffickers. HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or by completing its online tip form. Both are staffed around the clock by investigators.
Contact Lisa Fernandez at 408-432-4758 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her at Twitter.com/ljfernandez. Follow Jodi Hernandez at Twitter.com/jodihernandez01.