Eighteen people have been arrested in an undercover operation after they allegedly attempted to contact minors online for sex and other related crimes in Sacramento County, officials said Friday. law enforcement.
During the investigation called Operation Secret Admirer, the suspects had contact with undercover agents posing as children as young as 13, authorities say. The operation took place between mid-February and March 1.
“These are some really bad people that we got off the streets,” Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper said in 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, as well as the Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, FBI, Homeland Security Investigations and several 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,” California Atty said. General Rob Bonta said in a statement. “I have a simple message for anyone targeting children for online sex: If you sue kids in California, we’ll sue you.”
Suspects arrested in the operation sent undercover officers explicit photos and messages with explicit language. Many of the arrests were of people who allegedly tried to meet the undercover officers, believing them to be underage children, authorities said.
Sacramento County Sheriff’s Sgt. Brandon Gayman, commander of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, said suspects during the investigation were repeatedly told they were talking to a minor.
“It’s even continually referenced in other things like being in school or doing homework,” Gayman said.
The investigation was originally scheduled for three days, but expanded as law enforcement searched for suspects who had contacted undercover agents.
Some of the suspects also came into contact with multiple undercover agents during the week-long operation, Gayman said.
“It just tells us that these people are out there looking for children,” he said. “We anticipate that these suspects have contacted other minors in the community.”
Online grooming and incitement of underage victims can be found across 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 Prevention, one in four girls and one in 13 boys in the United States experience sexual abuse.