Federal law-enforcement officials have arrested 255 people in a nationwide crackdown on internet child sex crimes, 12 of them in Southern California.
“Operation iGuardian,” a five week operation conducted by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and other agencies, ended June 30. In that time, investigators seized massive amounts of sexually explicit material from computers and hard drives.
A dozen of those arrested were men from Southern California. They include 49-year old John Boyle, a former Covina middle school teacher.
"The majority of them are charged with either possession or trading of child pornography; 11 of them were charged with that. And then Mr. Boyle was also charged with sexual abuse charges,” said Claude Arnold, Special Agent in Charge for Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) in Los Angeles.
Sixty-one victims were identified during the investigation, five of them in California.
According to investigators, a “disturbing trend” is emerging in which child predators are increasingly using the Internet to “extort” children to produce and share sexually explicit material online.
“[The Internet] provides some degree of anonymity for them to exploit children,” said Arnold. “These people often pose as the children’s peers. They trick the kids into, you know, maybe disrobing in front of a Web cam, or engaging in sex acts, and then they record that. So now they’re instantly creating this pornography that then they can distribute around the world.”
Arnold said it’s important for parents to talk to their children about the existence of internet predators.
“[Parents] should keep their computer in common area of the house so that they can supervise what their kids are doing,” said Arnold. “and limit the type of sites they’re allowed to visit.”
Parents should also look for signs that may indicate their children are being victimized, such as sudden withdrawnness, isolation from friends and family, or if they’re receiving gifts from an unknown person.
“And kids need to understand that they should not share pictures of themselves online that they wouldn’t want their family, teachers or strangers to see,” said Arnold. “And they should advise their parents or another adult of someone has solicited inappropriate activity online.”