Two hundred and forty five suspects have been arrested in an international operation to round up child predators headed by the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement, authorities announced Thursday.
The operation dubbed “Operation Sunflower” took place between November 1 through December 7 and all but 23 suspects were apprehended in the United States. Officials identified 123 victims in relation to this investigation and said 44 of those children were directly rescued from their abusers and 79 were identified as either being exploited by others outside of their homes or are now adults who were victimized as children. Some of the suspects arrested were registered sex offenders.
Some of the victims were extremely young and included three that were under that age of three, nine who were four to six years old. Seventy of those were females and 53 were males. Agents were continuing to look for suspects in relation to cases they had uncovered.
The special agents launched the operation in November to commemorate the one-year anniversary where Danish law enforcement shared a picture found on a chat board along with evidence that a 16-year-old boy was planning to rape an 11-year-old girl. The suspect was looking for advice and posted images of the girl, one image that showed a sunflower on a road sign. Investigators were able to track down the girl and the location due to that image and intervene before she was further victimized. She was located in Kansas and the state road signs often have a sunflower on them.
ICE said in 2012, nearly 300 victims were identified and rescued due to pornography investigations in the United States and 1,655 suspected child predators were arrested and charged with criminal charges in connection with these investigations.
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