The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams’ ICE unit (internet child exploitation) made the arrests from June 20 to Sept. 17.
According to a release issued by ALERT on Wednesday, the probe was aided by investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Crime Centre, which works with Internet and social media providers to track online child sexual exploitation.
ICE also collaborated with a number of police agencies across Alberta during investigations and subsequent arrests.
Kaycee Madu, minister of justice and solicitor general, said in the release that those who participate in the exploitation of children will be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.
“Alberta’s justice system is here for all Albertans, especially for children victimized by sexual predators,” he said.
Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, the chief executive of ALERT, said the internet isn’t anonymous.
“These arrests demonstrate ALERT’s willingness to travel to all corners of the province to make arrests, put predators behind bars and keep kids safe,” he said.
There is speculation that the rise in the number of investigative referrals is likely in part related to digital dependency during COVID-19 isolation measures, said ALERT.
Each of the following suspects was charged with at least one child pornography offence:
- Kevin Borchert, a 29-year-old man from Sherwood Park.
- David Cadieux, a 27-year-old man from Calgary.
- Joseph Cadrain, a 32-year-old man from Strathmore.
- Gary Campbell, a 28-year-old man from Lamont.
- Michael Ciesla, a 32-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Michael Courtepatte, a 44-year-old man from Athabasca.
- Victor Delage, a 29-year-old man from Wainright.
- Gerald Donel, a 57-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Brian Farris, a 40-year-old man from Grande Prairie.
- Humberto Ferreyra, a 51-year-old man from Lake Louise.
- Coby Franz, a 42-year-old man from Alder Flats.
- Name withheld, a 16-year-old from Sherwood Park.
- Sean Giles, a 41-year-old man from Lethbridge.
- Brock Hann, a 21-year-old man from Morinville.
- Richard Lepchuk, a 59-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Christian Meier, a 52-year-old man from Calgary.
- Troy Melnyk, a 49-year-old man from Spruce Grove.
- Stephen Miehe, a 28-year-old man from Cardston.
- Alasdair Mills, a 61-year-old man from Edmonton.
- David Peeke, a 45-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Christopher Piers-Hanley, a 31-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Kalon Specht, a 30-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Andrew Stredick, a 30-year-old man from Calgary.
- Charles Tadashore, a 43-year-old man from Calgary.
- Laurence Thrasher, a 40-year-old man from Edmonton.
- Michael Vandermay, a 52-year-old man from Calgary.
There is no definitive link between each suspect, other than the nature of offences allegedly committed.
ICE is an integrated team that includes members of the police forces in Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat along with RCMP members.
The unit investigates offences involving child pornography, computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism offences.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has information on its website for families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources for caregivers, schools and educators.
Anyone with information about any child exploitation offence is encouraged to contact local police or cybertip.ca.