LOS ANGELES (AP) — Authorities throughout Southern California Thursday announced the arrests of more than 275 child predators that included a teaching assistant for special needs kids, a retired sheriff’s deputy, a U.S. Army soldier and a Los Angeles Fire Department explorer.
The monthlong “Operation Broken Heart” took place in May and involved a taskforce of dozens of local, state and federal authorities who worked in concert, sweeping sex offenders, parolees and probationers for allegedly violating their terms, targeting child sex traffickers, pimps, child porn traders and sex tourists traveling abroad.
In a technique reminiscent of the infamous show “To Catch a Predator,” the Los Angeles Regional Internet Crimes Against Children task force had its investigators pretend to be 12 to 14-year-old children online and arrested many individuals when they showed up to engage in sex acts with children.
A number of the 275 people arrested were seemingly mainstream individuals, many in positions of trust and with easy access to children:
• A teacher’s assistant was arrested by the Los Angeles Police department after allegedly showed up to a meeting believing he was going to have sex with two children.
• A retired Los Angeles County Sheriff’s deputy was arrested by ICE Homeland Security Investigations for allegedly distributing child pornography through several websites. The case was initially brought to their attention by the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Diplomatic Security after informed of an investigation by the Serbian Ministry of Interior.
• Multiple parolees who were in and around parks and children were arrested by California parole officers for violating terms of their release.
• A master’s student in health care management was arrested by Alhambra police for allegedly arranging to meet with a 14-year-old child for sex.
The number of arrests and potential allegations are expected to grow as forensic investigators continue their analysis of seized evidence. Law enforcement conducted the operations in Los Angeles, Orange, San Bernardino, Santa Barbara and Ventura counties.