WASHINGTON—U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) – in collaboration with the Brazil Ministry of Justice and the Public Security (MJSP) Secretariat for Integrated Operation (SEOPI) Cyber Laboratory – arrested 113 alleged child predators across the U.S. and in South America, Nov. 2 to 6, during phase seven of Operation Protected Childhood (OPC VII).
OPC VII simultaneously targeted the distributors and producers of child sexual abuse material throughout the Americas. The operation was conducted across multiple ICE HSI domestic field offices and executed in coordination with the agency’s Cyber Crimes Center (C3) and with law enforcement counterparts in Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay, and Panama.
OPC was initiated in March 2015 by HSI Brazil in partnership with Brazil’s MJSP Cyber Lab to increase the effectiveness of online child exploitation investigations. These efforts are a product of HSI’s continued investment in building partner capacity in Brazil. Since 2015, HSI and its partners have launched multiple phases of OPC and have recently expanded the operation to a larger multinational enforcement action.
During OPC VII, HSI offices in Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Tennessee, California, Colorado and Florida executed a combined 13 child exploitation-related search warrants and made nine arrests for child exploitation offenses. These executions were simultaneous with the enforcement actions made by Brazilian authorities and international law enforcement partners in Argentina, Paraguay, and Panama with the support of our HSI presence overseas.
A sample of HSI domestic enforcement actions as part of OPC VII include:
- HSI Raleigh, North Carolina, Nov. 6: HSI and the Cary Police Department executed a federal arrest warrant on a suspect for the production, transportation, and possession of child pornography. HSI Raleigh received a lead from C3 regarding a suspect posting child pornography in Kik chat rooms. Forensics located hundreds of images of child pornography, to include several naked images of his children. A warrant was subsequently issued for the subject’s arrest.
- HSI Panama City, Florida, Nov. 5: HSI and the Lynn Haven Police Department executed a residential search warrant for possession and distribution of child pornography. The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children provided information indicating that the target of investigation had used the Facebook Messenger app to distribute files of child pornography. One individual was arrested on scene for child exploitative material. Two additional individuals were arrested during the search warrant for narcotics possession.
- HSI Knoxville, Tennessee, and the Knoxville Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC)Task Force, Nov. 6: HSI and the Knoxville ICAC Task Force executed a federal search warrant at a local residence regarding peer to peer file sharing software and child pornography on his computer.
- HSI Nashville, Tennessee, Nov. 4: HSI, FBI, U.S. Secret Service, and the Rutherford County Sheriff’s Office executed a multi-agency residential search warrant in Murfreesboro, Tennessee, concerning the accessing of child exploitation Darknet websites.
- HSI Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, Nov. 5: HSI executed a residential search warrant for the possession and distribution of child pornography in Brownsville, Pennsylvania. HSI Pittsburgh initiated an investigation on a suspect based on lead information provided by Kik, Inc, indicating that the suspect had used the Kik app to distribute files of child pornography.
- HSI Northridge, California, Nov 4: HSI executed a residential search warrant for possession and distribution of child pornography in West Hills, California. HSI Northridge initiated an investigation at the residence based on lead information provided by HSI McAllen, Texas and Twitter, indicating that a target at the residence had used Twitter direct messaging to distribute files of child pornography.
- HSI Denver, Colorado, Nov. 6: HSI’s Colorado Cyber Guardian Task Force executed four federal search warrants in the Denver metro area based on the exchange of images of child sexual abuse material.
HSI international partner enforcement actions as part of OPC VII include:
- Brazil (HSI Brasilia): 137 child exploitation related search warrants and 74 arrests
- Argentina (HSI Buenos Aires): 37 child exploitation related search warrants and 23 arrests
- Paraguay (HSI Buenos Aires): 2 child exploitation related search warrants and 2 arrests
- Panama (HSI Panama City): 7 child exploitation related search warrants and 5 arrests
In addition, HSI Brasilia has partnered closely with the non-governmental organization (NGO) Child Rescue Coalition to combat child exploitation through the use of Child Protection Software (CPS). Between fiscal years 2016 and 2019, HSI Brasilia provided eleven technical training exercises on the use of the CPS to law enforcement agencies in Brazil and other nations across Latin America, leading to multiple investigations into child exploitation offenses in their respective countries.
The efforts of HSI, CPS, and both domestic and international law enforcement has generated a significant increase in the number of child exploitation investigations and arrests conducted throughout the region. Since 2017, OPC has resulted in a total of approximately 781 arrests, 1,383 executed search warrants, and dozens of minor victims rescued.
The HSI International Operations Division is the Department of Homeland Security’s largest investigative presence overseas. Division personnel serve as liaisons to governments and law enforcement agencies across the globe and work side-by-side with foreign law enforcement on HSI investigations. HSI is the principal investigative arm of DHS and a vital U.S. asset in combatting transnational crime and threats.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2ICE; TTY for hearing impaired: (802) 872-6196. This hotline is staffed around-the-clock by investigators.
Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may also be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or https://report.cybertip.org/.