Three dozen Texas men could Christmas behind bars, after they were swept up in an Internet sting and accused of trying to sexually exploit children.
The Montgomery County men were caught in the “Operation Safe Holiday”, a police investigation that spanned from October to December. Undercover agents posing as children messaged the suspects and the setting up of meetings, where the suspects were immediately arrested.
“Sexual predators are on the lookout for opportunities to meet up with underage children for sex and use of the Internet and social media apps to arrange meetings,” Montgomery County District Attorney Brett Ligon said Wednesday.
The arrests were made by the county Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force of the Conroe Police Department, the county constable’s offices, the district attorney’s office, Homeland Security Investigations, Texas Department of Public Safety and the Texas Attorney General’s Office. A number of the suspects are also accused of child pornography and Attempted Aggravated Sexual Abuse of a Child.
Agencies on the task force regularly monitor websites and social media apps, the creation of identities and the creation of chat groups online. They respond to the messages and calls will start on sites like Backpage, according to Assistant District Attorney Tyler Dunman. When the officers start corresponding with suspects online, they make it clear that they were underage.
“Unfortunately, many of these types of perpetrators are looking for victims,” said Dunman.
Dunman said correspondence can go on for weeks and even months before a meeting is set. The case against the defendants is primarily built for the arrest and based on the interactions that they had with the undercover agent online. But after the arrest, the police seize the perpetrators ‘ computers for the evidence, Dunman said.
The arrests show that parents must be vigilant to protect children, ” he said.
“To be honest, the parents are clueless these days as to the nature of the things that happen on the internet and the forms of communication their children have with strangers,” said Dunman.
Ray Bogan is a Fox News multimedia reporter based in El Paso, Texas. Follow him on twitter: @RayBogan