A national task force charged with tracking down child predators has arrested 238 people in less than two months in Southern California, ABC News is reporting. According to the Los Angeles Police Department, the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force carried out “Operation Broken Heart II” in April and May, leading to the arrests.
Among those arrested was Paul Charles Wilkins, a 70-year-old British man who had already being indicted in court for coming to the U.S. to have sex with boys between the ages of 10 and 12.
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In another case, 33-year-old Australian Michael Quinn was picked up in a hotel in Los Angeles after looking to buy sex from a young boy for $250. Prosecutors say Quinn also planned on partying with other child molesters who had arranged for sex with other young boys. The sting operation also reeled in a monk who came to the U.S. on a religious worker’s visa but who had in his possession child pornography with intent to distribute.
Homeland Security Investigations Acting Special Agent in Charge John Reynolds said, “[T]he perpetrators in these cases include entertainers, community leaders, white collar professionals and even members of the clergy.”
LAPD Deputy Chief Matt Blake confirmed the arrests, saying that all those arrested in the sting operation were for “charges such as possession and distribution of child pornography, sexual exploitation of children, child prostitution and sex tourism.” He added that the “incidence of child sexual exploitation had reached staggering proportions.”
The Los Angeles Police Department pointed out that all those arrested implicated themselves over the internet and advised families to maintain an open and candid dialogue with their young children over internet safety. The task force, realizing that kids are spending plenty of time on the internet and social media sites and that criminals use the same means to look for their victims, tilted their resources online to help catch them.
The Australian, Michael Quinn, who was looking to buy a 6-year-old for sex, had wanted to “meet up with a dad who shares his young one.” Undercover agents were in the loop online and arrested him when he showed up at a hotel.
He later admitted that he had planned to “hook up” with three other child predators and have sex with little boys he had met on social media.
A public information officer, Norma Eisenman, reinforced the importance of parents monitoring their kids in cyberspace, saying, “My motto to my daughter is, I pay the bill, I have the right to your passwords.”
Operation Broken Heart was initiated in 2014 and is one of the 61 programs funded via the U.S. Department’s Office of Juvenile and Delinquency Prevention. The program allows task forces and law enforcement agencies to work together and combine resources towards identifying and arresting child molesters or predators.
Recently, a Pennsylvania man, Lee Kaplan, was arrested after he was found living with 12 girls in his northern Philadelphia home. One of the girls was an 18-year-old who had already given birth to two children for him. Parents of the 18-year-old girl revealed that they had “gifted” their daughter to the 51-year-old man for bailing them out of a financial situation. She was 14 when she had her first child, according to CNN.
The couple, Daniel and Savilla Stoltzfus, former members of the Amish religion, claimed to be parents to 10 other girls. Police had responded to a complaint by a suspicious neighbor who said that something did not look right with Kaplan having so many children who all wore blue dresses and were never allowed outside the house.
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