ICE Operation Predator arrests of child exploiters top
From: ICE News Release Filed 6/6/07 GCN
WASHINGTON – Just four years after the Department of Homeland Security launched Operation Predator, an initiative aimed at those who sexually exploit children, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) announced today that its arrests had topped 10,000.
“Operation Predator is a great example of how our transnational partnerships and wide-ranging legal authorities can work to protect children,” said Julie L. Myers, Assistant Secretary of Homeland Security for ICE. “In the course of this highly successful operation, ICE has investigated and arrested people who tried to use the anonymity of the web, foreign travel or their roles as trusted members of the community to hide their crimes. Nothing makes us prouder than eliminating from our communities those who take advantage of children.”
More than 8,600 of those arrested as part of the operation have been non-citizen sex offenders whose crimes make them removable from the United States. As of today, more than 5,500 have been removed from the United States.
Child exploitation takes many forms. ICE targets child pornographers, child sex tourists and facilitators, human smugglers and traffickers of minors, criminal aliens convicted of offenses against minors and those deported for child exploitation offenses who have returned illegally. Those who prey on children are often trusted members of the victims’ families or communities. Among the 10,000 predators arrested by ICE were: relatives of victims, clergymen, doctors, athletic coaches, daycare and camp directors, teachers, janitors, babysitters, law enforcement officers, firefighters and military officers.
National statistics indicate that one in five children receive an online sexual solicitation, one in 33 has received an aggressive online sexual solicitation and one in four has been exposed to unwanted sexual images online.
ICE has arrested 58 Predators in Louisiana since the program began.
In Lake Charles, Louisiana, the Honorable Federal Judge Patricia Minaldi sentenced Dennis McGehee to 10 years in federal prison with life probation on March 22, 2007, for possessing child pornography in addition to any detention time on state charges. McGehee was investigated for sexually molesting seven juvenile males. McGehee was a CPSO deputy sheriff and Big Brothers, Big Sisters participant at the time of an accusation of child molestation with several juvenile males. He was also involved in the youth group at the Trinity Baptist Church in Lake Charles. On August 24, 2006, McGehee entered a plea of guilt to the one-count federal indictment of possessing child pornography. The CPSO obtained state charges on McGehee for forcible rape involving seven juvenile males. On March 20, 2007, he entered a plea of guilt to one count of forcible rape on a juvenile in state court with sentencing set for April 13, 2007. State prosecution and McGehee’s defense attorney agreed to a 30-year confinement plea package.
In Kenner, Louisiana, a resident and Honduran national who was convicted for indecency with a 14 year-old girl was processed for deportation following an investigation by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents. State District Judge Manny Fernandez sentenced Gustavo Gomez, 25, April 5, 2005 for indecent behavior with a juvenile to a three-year suspended sentence, a $2000 fine, and mandatory registration as a sex offender. The parents of the 14-year-old girl said they learned firsthand how easy it was for adult sexual predators to use the Internet to lie about their age to meet juveniles. Gomez pushed the girl’s mother aside when she discovered him hiding in her daughter’s bedroom closet. The man, who had met the teenager in an Internet chat room, pretended to be 18 years old and had previously visited the teen in her home. He fled through a window when confronted by the mother. He was caught because he left his vehicle near the girl’s home with his identification inside. The girl was surprised to learn that the man was actually 25 years old, authorities said at the time of the arrest.
"Operation Predator is an extraordinary example of federal leadership attacking a problem across the United States,” said Ernie Allen, president of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC). “What ICE has done is shine a light on the problem of child sexual exploitation. ICE’s 10,000 arrests in less than four years is astounding. There are many more offenders than we thought possible.”
“The world has now become the predator’s playground,” said Scott Berkowitz, president and founder of RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), the nation’s largest anti-sexual assault organization. “As predators have gotten smarter, so must law enforcement. ICE has stepped up to the plate and made life safer for our nation’s children.”
In 2003, President Bush signed the PROTECT Act, which gave ICE agents the ability to make dozens of arrests under its child sex tourism provisions. Since the passage of the Act, the sentences for child molestation have been the longest on record. In May, a Minnesota man received 750 years in federal prison for the manufacture, possession and distribution of pornography involving young children he knew.
ICE has special authority when it comes to foreign nationals who prey on children in the United States. Of the 10,061 arrests made as part of Operation Predator, 8,601 have been arrests of foreign national sex offenders whose crimes make them removable from the United States. To date, more than 5,500 of these predators have been deported. Such crimes include a Polish man in New Jersey who repeatedly molested his own daughters, an Austrian-national soccer coach convicted of repeatedly fondling a mentally impaired minor, a Filipino babysitter in Virginia who repeatedly molested the child in his care.
ICE is the U.S. representative to the Virtual Global Task Force and works with Interpol to catch predators who seek safe haven in the United States for crimes they have committed in their home countries. ICE agents work with law enforcement around the world to shut down Web sites where child pornographers share files and even use streaming video to show molestation of children in real time. One of our earliest investigations attacked the financial structure of a Belarus-based network of child pornography sites called Regpay. The investigation resulted in the arrest of more than 1,400 subscribers to Regpay-affiliated child pornography Web sites in the United States and around the globe. The top two company officials each received 25-year sentences.
Law enforcement has new authorities to arrest those who travel abroad to take advantage of children. ICE attaches in more than 50 offices in 39 countries work with local authorities to bring these predators back to justice in the Unites States, where they face some of the toughest laws in the world. A Las Vegas resident who operated a sex tourism business on the Internet from Thailand pleaded guilty in February after an ICE undercover investigation. Russell A. Herman led an undercover agent to four brothels in November 2006 that held girls between the ages of 12 and 17. All of the girls were involved in prostitution, and many had been illegally smuggled into Thailand and were padlocked inside the brothels.
We have made significant inroads in human trafficking and smuggling of children. The criminal networks engaged in human smuggling and trafficking have become more violent and more profit-driven than ever before. At the same time, their victims are getting younger and younger. Just last week in Texas, a mother and her two daughters were charged with Sex Trafficking of Children by Force, Fraud or Coercion. The defendants allegedly traveled to Mexico to recruit girls as young as 15 to work as prostitutes in the San Antonio area.
ICE welcomes the assistance of the public in catching the next 10,000 predators. Members of the public wishing to report suspicious activity may contact ICE at 1-866-DHS-2ICE or Operation.Predator@dhs.gov. Additionally, the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an ICE partner on Operation Predator, can be contacted at 1-800-843-5678 or www.cybertipline.com. Yesterday, in London, ICE entered into an understanding with the United Kingdom to improve international cooperation and the sharing of information to combat human trafficking. ICE joins the Department of Justice in its Project Safe Childhood to make the world a safer place for children.