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US nabs hundreds in global child-porn probe

"Operation Sunflower" identifies 123 victims of child abuse and leads to arrest of 245 suspects for child exploitation.
Last Modified: 04 Jan 2013 09:48
John Morton, head of the Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said six other countries were probed [Al Jazeera]

United States federal authorities have identified 123 child victims of sexual abuse and made hundreds of arrests in an international probe on child exploitation.

More than 200 adults were arrested in the five-week child pornography investigation, which ended in early December, US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) officials said on Thursday.

ICE's director, John Morton said his team found 110 victims in 19 US states, while the others were living in six countries elsewhere.

"We arrested 245 people on criminal charges of child exploitation, 222 in the United States and 23 people overseas," Morton said.

Morton declined to provide specific details about which foreign countries were involved, saying only that there were some cases in Mexico.

Operation Sunflower

The investigation, dubbed "Operation Sunflower", was part of ICE's effort to find and rescue victims, and arrest abusers and people who make or transmit child pornography.

The victims ranged in age from less than one to 17 years old. Morton said 44 of the victims were living with their accused abusers.

"The grim reality is that online child exploitation is a very real part of our modern lives, and it is going on throughout the world, right now, on a grand scale," Morton said.

Morton also announced arrest warrants for two unidentified adults charged in Los Angeles with molesting a girl who appeared in online photos to be about 13 when she was abused.

Morton said the Internet has allowed pornographic images produced in one country to be shared quickly around the world, sometimes in real time as the abuse occurred.

John Ryan, the executive director of the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, said more than half of the tips the center receives have an "international nexus", meaning that either "production of the content or the victims themselves have jurisdiction outside of the US borders".

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