Eighteen people have been arrested in a sting operation after they allegedly tried to contact minors online for sex and other related crimes in Sacramento County, law enforcement officials announced Friday.
During the investigation dubbed Operation Secret Admirer, the suspects were in contact with undercover officers who posed as children as young as 13, according to authorities. The operation was carried out between mid-February and March 1.
“These are very bad people that we took off the streets,” Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper said during a news conference. posted on facebook. “There’s a lot more out there.”
The operation was conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and investigators from the California Department of Justice, along with the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and various law enforcement agencies. in Sacramento, Placer, El Dorado and San Joaquin counties. .
“Today’s announcement makes it clear that child sexual abuse will not be tolerated,” said California Atty. General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “I have a simple message to all those who target children for sex online: if you go after children in California, we will go after you.”
Suspects arrested during the operation sent undercover agents explicit photos and messages with explicit language. Many of the arrests included people who allegedly tried to meet with the undercover officers, thinking they were underage children, authorities said.
Sacramento County Sheriff Sgt. Brandon Gayman, commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said suspects were repeatedly told during the investigation that they were talking to a minor.
“That gets brought up all the time in other things, like being in school or doing homework,” Gayman said.
The investigation was initially planned for three days, but was expanded as law enforcement searched for suspects who contacted undercover officers.
Some of the suspects were also in contact with various undercover officers during the weeklong operation, Gayman said.
“That tells us right there that these people are looking for children,” he said. “We anticipate that these suspects have made contact with other minors in the community.”
Online underage victim grooming and enticement can be found on multiple online platforms, including social media, messaging apps and games, according to the state attorney general’s office.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Preventionone in four girls and one in 13 boys in the United States experience sexual abuse.