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Published On: Mon, Aug 12th, 2019

ICE breaks up child exploitation ring in Tucson, arrested over 20 sexual predators

In May, the Tucson Police Department’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit invited several local, state, and federal agencies to participate in a multi-agency operation targeting sexual predators that prey on the children of our community.

Photo/Anja

Twelve agencies participated in the operation, including Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), Tucson Police Department (TPD), Oro Valley Police Department, Pima County Sheriff’s Department, Department of Public Safety, United States Customs and Border Protection, Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), United States Marshals Service, Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives, United States Secret Service, Pima County Attorney’s Office and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office.

During the week of July 29 through Aug. 2, agencies involved conducted multiple undercover internet chats with individuals claiming to be adults. The law enforcement personnel who were communicating on-line posed as juveniles and agreed to meet the adults in Tucson to engage in sexual acts. At the end of the five-day operation, 21 sexual predators were taken into custody without incident, after arriving to meet with the “juvenile” they were talking to on-line. All 21 men were booked into the Pima County Jail and charged with the luring of a minor for sexual exploitation, a class 3 felony. A large majority of those arrested were booked on additional felony charges including aggravated luring of a minor for sexual exploitation, sex trafficking of a minor, attempted sex conduct with a minor, and sex offender registration violation.

“Homeland Security Investigations continues to proudly partner with dedicated law enforcement agencies that work to protect children from predators who seek to take advantage of their innocence,” said Scott Brown, special agent in charge of HSI Phoenix. “HSI remains steadfast in finding these predators to bring them to justice and out of our communities.”

“The resolve our TPD members displayed while planning and carrying out this work was outstanding,” said Tucson Police Chief Chris Magnus. “We recognize the value of working on these types of investigations in collaboration with our law enforcement partners, including those at the federal level. Their expertise and support were critical to the success of this operation. This was truly a team effort. Together we successfully apprehended 21 child predators.”

“The U.S. Marshals Service is dedicated to pursuing and stopping these types of predators,” said District of Arizona U.S. Marshal David Gonzales. “Our partnership with the Tucson Police Department and other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, makes every effort to assure that child predators will be brought to justice and face the consequences of their actions.”

“Through operations like this, law enforcement agencies are able to work together to protect our children and keep our communities safe,” said Sean Kaul, special agent in charge of the FBI Phoenix Field Office. “We value our partnerships with our state, local, and federal partners and we look forward to continuing our efforts to combat crimes against children.”

HSI would like to remind parents and guardians to monitor their children’s social media accounts, on-line friends, and internet history. Set parental controls when necessary and talk with children about the potential dangers of the internet and social media. Being aware of their internet activity is crucial for their safety.

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