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18 suspected of seeking sex with kids are arrested

Lathrop Police Services has been busy the last few weeks – from offering mutual aid for potential civil unrest situations to maximizing staffing levels in the middle of a pandemic.

That didn’t stop them, however, from spending the last two weeks casting a net around potential child predators in the South County – launching an operation that netted a record number of people, 18, who had arranged to meet a minor for sexual purposes.

According to Lathrop Police Chief Ryan Biedermann, the operation came as a way of protecting the increasingly vulnerable youth of the community who haven’t been in school in months and were forced to use computers with access to the internet to complete the kinds of assignments that would normally be done in person.

“We thought that we were going to get a little break because of the pandemic, but because we’ve had kids out of school for months now and people are not working, people have more time on their hands to commit crime or are more susceptible to becoming a victim,” Biedermann said. “We have kids that are at home all day while parents are work, and we wanted to make sure that we can keep those kids safe by removing people who would want to do hard to them.”

Much like in the other sting operations that Biedermann has launched since taking over the contract policing services in Lathrop, the operation involved deputies posting non-descript ads on websites and in chat rooms where sexual activity is prevalent – ads that include the age of the decoy posing as a child which, Biedermann said, sometimes increases the number of people that respond.

Because of the sheer number of other things that have been going on lately, Biedermann said that the work on the sting operation was done in addition to everything else – even forcing some of the deputies to handle some of the tasks like text messages, emails, and phone calls from potential predators while they were at home.

As a result of the time constraints the department opted to keep the operations active for an additional week but did so without participation from outside agencies like they have done before.

The fact that the effort netted 19 arrests – 18 for arranging to meet a child for sex – even with reduced manpower, Biedermann said, speaks to the significance of the problem that he wanted to tackle when he arrived at his new position at the helm of Lathrop Police Services.

It also happens to be one of the policing actions that he feels the entire community can rally behind – even in the midst of tumultuous times and tension between the public and law enforcement.

“In talking to our high-tech crimes guys there are more people now that are uploading and downloading child pornography, so we knew that this kind of activity was taking place out there,” Biedermann said. “Nobody wants these people out there amongst our kids, and I think that given the nature of things, this is one thing that everybody can get on board with – nobody wants to see this stuff happen to any kid, period.

“While there are conversations and arguments about law enforcement, this shows the good side of what we do and you’re not going to find much of an argument about it – it’s one of those things where everybody can get on board.”

Arrested for arranging to meet a minor for sexual contact were: Darrellun Peterson, Sher Randhawa, Juan Estrada-Garcia, Hermenegildo Beltran-Meza, Robert Pena Jr., Daniel Snow, Ryan Wigley, Roneel Singh, Joseph Cascio, Sarbjit Shergill, Houth Hour, Mario Francisco Martinez, Ronald Kees, Mark Provencio Jr., Simran Singh, Luis Guzman, Vishal Singh, and Celestino Rodriguez. Gordon Bryan was also arrested during the operation for an outstanding warrant but is not facing charges related to being a child predator.

The operation marked the third time since Biedermann has been at the helm of the department that the sting operations have been conducted, and the first time that all of the charges related to sexual crimes involved contacting a minor for the purpose of sexual intercourse.

To contact reporter Jason Campbell email or call 209.249.3544.