The Fresno County Sheriff’s Office announced Friday that it has arrested 34 potential sexual predators. The arrests were part of a multi-agency undercover operation.
The Sheriff’s Office worked with Homeland Security Investigations, the US District Attorney’s Office, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, and other agencies to make the arrests in what they called “Operation COVID Chat Down.”
The suspects are all men between the ages of 19 and 63 who were arrested and booked at the Fresno County Jail on charges related to arranging to meet a child for sexual exploitation.
“Operation COVID Chatdown is a prime example of how deviant sexual behavior, preying on vulnerable children, can escalate,” said Mims.
In a press conference, Sheriff Margaret Mims explained that detectives posed online as 12 and 13 year olds. When suspects requested to meet in person, detectives were waiting to make the arrest. Some of the suspects were also found to be in possession of child pornography.
Mims said that there have been 90 total arrests this year relating to the possession and distribution of child pornography.
“This is nearly double the amount of arrests in 2019, which had 50,” Mims said.
With the increased time spent online at home, Mims asked families to be vigilant in talking to kids about their internet use. This undercover operation is ongoing, she said, and more arrests could be made.