Undercover detectives working with the Phoenix, Mesa, Tempe, and Chandler police departments alongside Homeland Security Investigations and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office, placed ads on apps and websites often used by online predators looking for sex with children.
Twenty-seven suspects, who ranged in age between 21 and 69, were caught allegedly arranging or even brokering sex acts with boys and girls younger than 15-years old through social media, police said at a press conference announcing the arrests Thursday afternoon.
“Essentially, it’s like fishing. When you put the bait out, the fish will come,” Commander Jim Gallagher of the Phoenix Police Department’s Drug Enforcement Bureau said. “To those that traffic our victims and to those that try to buy sex online in the Valley, we are looking for you and we will catch you and when we do you will go to jail.”
“If we choose not to monitor, bad things can happen,” Phoenix Police Chief Jeri Williams said during the press conference. “There are people in our social media world who will hurt us or hurt our children if we don’t do the responsible thing, so our children are counting on us to protect them.”
The suspects were identified as: Samuel Puma, 69, Patrick Mai, 65, Walter Lundy, 59, Franklin Omori, 57, Roy Vasquez, 55, Daryl McCraw, 53, Hector Pano, 48, Juan Flores, 40, Andrew Kasmar, 37, Richard Gonzalez, 37, Colten Jourdain, 35, Edward Mendoza, 33, Agustin Ibanez, 32, Kristopher Broom, 31, Ezra Reynolds, 31, Fabian Hernandez, 30, Jose Sandoval, 30, Bryan Carr, 30, Lawrence Ruiz, 29, Tommy Diaz, 28, Kevin Evangelista, 26, Dovonta Owens, 25, Nicholas Benhart, 23, Jesus Mendoza, 23, Terrick Ebron, 22, and Isaac Arce, 21.
January is known as National Human Trafficking Prevention Month, which is dedicated to educating individuals about the crime and how to spot the signs of human trafficking.
Photo: Phoenix Police Department