Nine Fresno-area men have been arrested in a five-week operation that targeted child predators who used the Internet to prey on children, federal authorities announced Monday.
The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Homeland Security Investigations and Internet Crimes Against Children took part in "Operation iGuardian," which ran May 28 to June 30 across the United States and its territories.
Nationwide, 255 child predators were arrested in the sweep, federal authorities said. The Fresno Homeland Security Investigations office ranked second only to Tampa, Fla., for the most arrests by an individual HSI office.
The operation was part of HSI's "Operation Predator," in which federal agents rescue victims of online sexual exploitation and arrest their abusers as well as others who own, trade and produce images of child pornography.
Local authorities on Monday singled out two men arrested in the sweep: Derek Garcia, 34, a convicted sex offender who was arrested May 30 in Fresno on state charges of possession of child pornography, and Mathew Shawn Broadway, 30, of Clovis, who was indicted by a federal grand jury June 27 for receiving and distributing child pornography.
The Fresno County Sheriff's Office, the District Attorney's Offices in Fresno, Kings and Tulare counties, and the police departments in Tulare, Fresno, Clovis and Visalia participated in Operation iGuardian.
During the operation, investigators encountered various child predators chatting online with minors about sexual topics, sending them obscene images, and encouraging them to produce nude or sexual photos and videos, ICE Director John Morton said in a news release. The predators also attempted to meet their victims in person to engage in sexual activity, he said.
Statewide, federal agents arrested 39 suspects during Operation iGuardian and identified five juvenile victims. The five minors are among 61 juvenile victims identified during the nationwide Operation iGuardian.
The public can report suspected child predators by calling the toll-free hotline at (866) DHS-2-ICE, or by calling the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, (800) THE-LOST.