Nearly three dozen child predators, who detectives say tried to solicit sex from children, were arrested from California in an undercover operation. Detectives conducting the operation posed as children online to lure the pedophiles into the net, which also revealed a lot about how the involvement of children in illegal sex has surged following the coronavirus outbreak.
The men arrested range between teenagers to sexagenarians, according to the authorities. The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said that the operation was conducted over a period of 10 days last month and was a top-secret mission, with only a handful of people from the department knowing the details.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said that as many as 34 men have been arrested on charges of attempting to solicit sex from children. "Operation COVID Chat Down" spanned between July 20 through August 2 and was multi-agency effort by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
The men arrested range between the age of 19 to 63, authorities said during a news conference on Friday. According to police, the undercover mission was planned well in advance wherein detectives posed as 12 and 13-year-old boys and girls online and initiated chat with the suspects and finally lured them into the net.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office said that COVID-19 has pushed kids to spend more time online, making them extremely vulnerable to predators. Many of the arrested were convicted sexual predators. "A potential danger of being online more is an encounter with a sexual predator who is seeking relationships with children," Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims said.
A Well-Planned Operation
This year, there have already seen more than twice as many pedophiles arrested compare to 2019. Authorities learned about this and planned a secret operation, which was planned over a month before the detectives got into action. Authorities said that none of the suspects doubted the undercover agents and started communicating with them. Mims said that one of the arrested intended to have unprotected sex with a 13-year-old girl and later told detectives he was HIV positive.
During the operation, 190 men continued talking to the detectives posing as children, even after the detectives said they were 12 or 13 years old, Mims said. Some of them were repeated sex offenders. One of them, 55-year-old Thomas Binford of Clovis, had been arrested before for sexually assaulting a child and is a registered sex offender. Several men who were not arrested asked for pictures after being told they were chatting with a pre-teen.
However, of the 34 men arrested, only nine remain in jail, while 22 were released on bond and there are out on pre-trial release.