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Law enforcement bust suspects for attempting to engage in sexual misconduct with undercover personnel posing as minors as young as 13 years old
SACRAMENTO – California Attorney General Rob Bonta, Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper, and the Sacramento Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force today announced the arrest of 18 individuals for allegedly attempting to contact a minor for sex and other related crimes. The arrests are the result of Operation Secret Admirer, which was jointly conducted by federal, state, and local law enforcement. The arrests have been referred to the Sacramento County District Attorney’s Office for potential criminal prosecution.
“I have a simple message for all those who target children for sex online: If you go after children in California, we’ll go after you,” said Attorney General Bonta. “Today’s announcement makes it clear that child sexual abuse will not be tolerated. I’m extremely grateful to all of our partners in Sacramento for their dedication and commitment to keeping our communities safe. When we work together, we get results. My office always stands ready to work with our partners across California to stand up for our children and for public safety.”
During Operation Secret Admirer, law enforcement personnel worked undercover, posing as children as young as 13 years old, to identify, contact, and arrest anyone who may be trying to target children for sex. In these encounters, suspects allegedly used sexually explicit language and sent graphic photos to undercover personnel. Once suspects requested to meet with a child, law enforcement directed them to a predetermined location and arrested them. The operation was carried out from mid-February to early March and targeted individuals across Sacramento County. The majority of the arrests involved individuals who allegedly attempted to meet with undercover personnel.
Operation Secret Admirer was conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and investigators from the California Department of Justice, Sacramento County Sheriff’s Office, Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, Sacramento County Probation Department, Elk Grove Police Department, Sacramento Police Department, Folsom Police Department, Placer County Sheriff’s Office, California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation, El Dorado County District Attorney's Office, Rancho Cordova Police Department, and San Joaquin County Sheriff’s Office.
Child sexual abuse remains a significant public safety problem. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, child sexual abuse includes instances where the child does not fully comprehend, does not consent or is unable to give informed consent, or is not developmentally prepared for and cannot give consent to sexual activity. In particular, online enticement — communicating with someone believed to be a child via the internet with the intent to commit a sexual offense or abduction — is a growing problem and form of exploitation, which can include children being groomed to take sexually explicit images or meeting face-to-face with someone for sexual purposes. This type of victimization can occur on a wide array of online platforms, including social media, messaging apps, or online games. Many children wait to report or never report child sexual abuse and research on the subject likely underestimates the true impact of the problem. Although estimates vary across studies, the research shows that about 1 in 4 girls and 1 in 13 boys in the United States experience child sexual abuse. Someone known and trusted by the child or child’s family members, perpetrates 91% of child sexual abuse. Experiencing child sexual abuse can affect how a person thinks, acts, and feels over a lifetime. This can result in short- and long-term physical, mental, and behavioral health consequences.
If you or someone you love has been the victim of a sexual assault, California offers free sexual assault forensic medical exams and support for survivors. Sexual assault forensic exams are designed to be performed by medical staff to gather evidence of a sexual assault and provide healthcare services. Both for medical and evidentiary purposes, the exam should occur as soon as possible and should be completed within five days of the assault. It is also important to remember that getting a forensic medical exam does not obligate you to participate in criminal justice proceedings. The California Department of Justice strongly encourages sexual assault survivors to obtain medical exams from trained professionals in order to help preserve their rights.
If you believe a child is in immediate danger, call 911. You may also report suspected child sexual exploitation to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children at https://report.cybertip.org/. Additional guidance for victims and survivors and information on how to access a sexual assault forensic medical exam is available through the California Department of Justice’s Victims’ Services Unit at https://oag.ca.gov/victimservices.