The sting operation carried out by law enforcement officials resulted in two dozen arrests in a far-flung area that includes Tennessee, Wisconsin, Florida, Kansas, Georgia and Kentucky. Suspects have been charged with a variety of sex crimes, including distribution of child pornography, sexual exploitation of children, aggravated child molestation, illegal solicitation and trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude.
Police said additional charges in “Operation Just Cause” might be filed later.
The undercover internet operation targeted people who visit online chatrooms and social media platforms, a news report stated. Suspects arrested range in age from 19 up to 65.
Police say that the suspects had sexually explicit contacts with investigators that the suspects believed were minors.
“The goal of ‘Operation Just Cause’ was to arrest persons who communicate with children online and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex,” according to a police statement. Officials acknowledged that some sites included in the sting operation promote themselves as adult-only. However, authorities say that minors visit the sites regardless and “establish profiles claiming to be older” and then come in contact with adults.
Police say the online activities of the suspects confirms the belief that they “specifically seek out minors on such websites to groom them as potential victims for sexual contact.”
The two Tennessee suspects are a 25-year-old man and 19-year-old woman from Pall Mall, about 350 miles northeast of Memphis.
The charges the suspects in this case face are among the most serious allegations possible. They should all exercise their right to silence and speak instead with an attorney experienced in sex crimes defense.