July 19, 2013
A five-week child predator operation conducted by three agencies under Department of Homeland Security concluded with the arrest of 255 child predators and rescue of 61 victims.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Operation concluded iGuardian, which is part of HSI’s Operation Predator. The program identifies and rescues victims of online sexual exploitation, arrests their abusers who own, trade and produce images of child pornography.
“Protecting our youth in the digital age requires all of us to be on the lookout for child predators abusing and extorting victims online,” said John Morton, Director for ICE. “Children and parents need to understand that not everyone online is who they say they are. Child abusers prowl social media looking for opportunities to force young people into sexual exploitation through guile, deceit, and extortion. We want children to know that it’s wrong for any adult to solicit or pressure them for sex and that the law is on their side.”
Investigators pointed to a “disturbing trend” emerging on the Internet that entices children to produce and share sexually explicit material online. During Operation iGuardian, “HSI and ICAC investigators encountered various child predators chatting online with minors about sexual topics, sending them obscene images, encouraging them to produce nude or sexual photos and videos, and attempting to meet them in person to engage in sexual activity. In some cases, child predators are also sexually extorting, or “sextorting,” the minors into producing additional and increasingly graphic images and videos.”
According to the federal agencies, 24 of the 61 victims were engaging online with strangers who sexually exploited them. The victim’s ages ranged from 7 to 17, and shockingly, four were under the age of 3; five were ages 4 to 6; 13 were ages 7 to 9; 10 were ages 10 to 12; 23 were ages 13 to 15; and six were ages 16 to 17. Forty-two were girls and 19 were boys.
Investigators point to three significant arrests made during Operation iGuardian. In each case, HSI is asking that anyone with additional information about potential victims come forward:
• Jimmy Caraballo-Colon, 25, a former high school cheerleading coach and athlete from Caguas, Puerto Rico, was arrested June 4 by the HSI Puerto Rico Crimes Against Children Task Force (PRCACTF) after it was discovered by the Greenwood Village Police Department in Colorado that he was blackmailing a 17-year-old girl he met online in an anonymous Internet video chat website. Through the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, investigators identified a second victim, a 15-year-old girl in California. Further investigation led to another 15-year-old girl in the Netherlands, and leads are currently being pursued regarding two 15 and 16-year-old girls in Australia. Investigators believe there are more than 80 potential victims who remain unidentified.
• John David Boyle, 49, a former middle school teacher from Glendora, Calif., was arrested June 5, during an undercover sting operation in his classroom, by HSI Los Angeles and the multi-agency ICAC. Boyle has been indicted and charged with enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity over the Internet. He has also been charged with advertisement of online child pornography, as well as distribution, receipt and attempted receipt and possession of child pornography. Believing the undercover investigator shared his sexual interest in young boys, Boyle allegedly set up an in-person meeting in his middle school classroom for the purpose of engaging in sexual activity while watching child pornography. Investigators have identified a 14-year-old boy who was a victim of sexual contact with the defendant and believe that there are additional victims in this ongoing case.
• Eduardo Arturo Romero Barrios, a Mexican national, 33, was arrested June 26, by the Mexican Attorney General’s Office with the assistance of the Mexican Federal Police in Monterrey, Mexico. The arrest followed a lead by HSI Mexico City and the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children from a social media provider about a user who was pretending to be a young teenage girl in order to elicit provocative images from minors via the social networking site. Romero Barrios was then extorting the minors to provide more sexually explicit material by threatening to expose the images he had acquired from them throughout the Internet. Investigators – with the assistance of HSI Little Rock and the Arkansas Area 4 ICAC – have identified two victims, boys ages 11 and 13 in Arkansas, and are pursuing leads into at least three other children: a 10-year old Kentucky girl, and two others in Australia and the Ukraine. Investigators believe there are other potential victims who Barrios may have exploited.
“We are very thankful for the priority that Director Morton and ICE have made in protecting our country’s most vulnerable victims, and we are proud of the assistance that NCMEC provides law enforcement as they investigate child sexual exploitation cases,” said John Ryan, CEO of The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children. “The sad truth is, there are many more child victims of sexual exploitation out there who have not yet been rescued and are still suffering. We know that there’s more work to be done so that all child victims receive the help they deserve.”
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner at 1-800-THE-LOST.