Twelve people face federal charges for a variety of crimes related to the sexual exploitation of children, according to a news release from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement.
The charges are the result of a coordinated federal effort called "Operation Predator," which involved U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the FBI and the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Central District of California. The Riverside County District Attorney’s Office provided support for several of the cases.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Ami Sheth said one of the suspects in this crackdown include 21-year old Darian Tillman of Corona.
"Defendant Tillman was impersonating somebody else and meeting minors — generally males, as far as we know — online using various messenger apps and direct them to take sexually explicit photographs of themselves as well as videos and send them to him," Sheth said. "If they ever refused to do that, the defendant would then threaten the victims with potential exposure of those photographs to family members.
"It's the type of case that involves a very significant amount of manipulation."
According to the news release, others charged include:
- Christine Diane Foster, a 39-year-old Fontana resident indicted for sexual exploitation of a child and distribution of child pornography. She is scheduled for a Sept. 14 arraignment hearing in federal court in Riverside.
- Tabitha Walls and Kenyati Potts were charged with child sex trafficking and transporting minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. They are scheduled for Sept. 18 arraignment hearings in federal court in Riverside.
- Michael Lee Lewis, a 65-year-old Ontario resident indicted for advertising, distributing, receiving and possession of child pornography. He is scheduled to be arraigned Aug. 23 in Los Angeles.
- Ryan Christopher Edgecomb, a 32-year-old Murrieta resident indicted for distributing, receiving and possession of child pornography. He is scheduled for a Sept. 10 trial in Riverside.
- Jarrett Wayne Martindale, Jr., a 26-year-old Palm Desert resident indicted for distributing, receiving, and possession of child pornography. He pleaded guilty to possession of child pornography and is scheduled to be sentenced on Oct. 21.
- Theodore William Reed, a 58-year-old Victorville resident indicted for failure to register as a sex offender. An arrest warrant for Reed has been issued.
- Michael Weitzel, a 56-year-old Palm Desert resident who was charged with possession of child pornography. A plea agreement has been filed in which Weitzel agreed to plead guilty to the charge.
- Skyler J. Olberding, a 26-year-old resident of Washington, Iowa who was indicted for possession of child pornography. A warrant for Olberding's arrest has been issued.
- John Michael Dragan, a 64-year-old resident of Moreno Valley indicted for receiving and possession of child pornography. Dragan is scheduled for an Aug. 27 arraignment hearing in Los Angeles.
- Theron Charles Barron, a 21-year-old resident of Rialto indicted for distributing, receiving, and possession of child pornography. A plea agreement has been filed in which Barron agrees to plead guilty to possession of child pornography on Aug. 19 in Riverside.
Sheth said investigations into the 12 cases are ongoing. Because there may be more unidentified juvenile victims, anyone with information relevant to the cases is asked to contact law enforcement officials.