123 victims of child sexual exploitation saved by ICE, HSI
Jane Doe (provided)
Unknown Suspect 1 (provided)
Unknown Suspect 2 (provided)
WASHINGTON (WCIV) -- The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency has announced the outcome of a major operation that identified and rescued 123 sexually exploited children.
ICE teamed up with Homeland Security Investigations to implement Operation Sunflower.
Agents targeted people who own, trade and produce images of child porn. The name comes from a case in Kansas where a victim was rescued thanks to a sunflower-shaped road sign in the background of the images.
According to ICE, 44 children were saved from their abusers and 79 were identified as being exploited by abusers outside of the children's homes or are now adults.
One of the cases are right here in the Lowcountry. In November, HSI agents identified a 6-year-old victim and arrested 51-year-old Gerald Roberts of Pageland who reportedly abused the girl to produce child porn.
"The sexual abuse of young children, often at the hands of people they trust, is a particular wrong," said ICE Director John Morton in a press release. "Whenever our investigations reveal the production and distribution of new child pornography online, we will do everything we can to rescue the victim and prosecute the abuser even if takes us years or around the world to do it. A relentless fight against child exploitation is the only answer."
HSI and other law enforcement agencies arrested 245 people during the operation, which took place Nov. 1 to Dec. 7 spanning 19 states.
Of the 123 victims, five were under the age of 3; nine were ages 4 to 6; 21 were ages 7 to 9; 11 were ages 10 to 12; 38 were ages 13 to 15; and 15 were ages 16 to 17.
Twenty-four of the victims identified are now adults who were victimized as children. Seventy were female and 53 were male.
"We applaud our partners at ICE for their worldwide work in identifying these victims of child sexual exploitation and for helping to remove these children from extremely dangerous situations," said NCMEC CEO John Ryan. "We know that there's more work to be done. Anyone could know these victims, not knowing that they're being harmed. They could be your neighbors' children, your child's classmate, or even your own child. We thank Director Morton and everyone at ICE for their strong commitment to rescuing the most vulnerable of victims."
Other unknown suspects still at large:
HSI is still searching for "Jane and John Doe" for images they believe were taken about 11 years ago in Los Angeles, CA. The images show a man and woman molesting a girl who looks to be about 13-years-old.
John Doe appears to be a white male, 40 to 50 years old; Jane Doe appears to be a white female, 35 to 45 years old but both would be 11 years older now.
The male's face was blurred in the video so his image in unavailable. The female suspect has several tattoos, including: a black tattoo on her right hip resembling a butterfly; a tattoo on her right shoulder blade of a curled up cat; a tattoo with words across the top of her left wrist; and a tattoo of unknown design on the upper portion of her left breast.
The images of two other unknown suspects, wanted for questioning in other unsolved child pornography investigations, are also being publicized.
"Unknown Suspect #1" is wanted for questioning in a case involving images showing an adult male sexually abusing a pre-pubescent male child. He is described as a white male with short brown hair and an indiscernible tattoo on his upper right tricep.
"Unknown Suspect #2" is wanted for questioning in a case involving an adult male sexually abusing a toddler. He is described as a white male with gray and white hair, a full beard and is wearing thin wire-framed eyeglasses.
Anyone with information or tips that can assist in these investigations is encouraged to call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visit www.ICE.gov/tips. Tips may be reported anonymously.
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