Whatcom County, Washington police were able to nab 20 suspected online predators in a sting operation conducted within the area.
KGMI reports that last week officers from the Whatcom County Sheriff’s Office, with the assistance of Washington State Police, county prosecutors, and victim advocacy specialists launched “Operation Net Nanny.” Posting ads on Craigslist and other websites, officers posed as parents offering their children to online predators, while others posed as minors interested in sex. Officers engaged in conversation with men who responded to these ads and then arrest them in the sting operation.
The Bellingham Herald indicates that many of the men described graphic sex acts they would have liked to perform with the children they believed they would be meeting, including children some of the men believed were as young as 6-years-old. Many of the suspects also provided nude photos of themselves during the course of the conversations.
An officer would then convince these men to meet them at an undisclosed address. Once the men arrived believing they would be meeting up with a minor for sex, they would instead be met by a pair of handcuffs.
The men varied in age from 22 to 66-years-old. While officers say that the ads generated hundreds of responses, the men arrested had agreed to meet up with the children they believed they were in contact with explicitly to perform sexual acts.
Whatcom County Sheriff Bill Elfo said in a statement:
“The arrests stemming from Operation Net Nanny resulted in the capture of those seeking out very young and very vulnerable children for sexual exploitation and contact. Hopefully these arrests will cut short these predators as they search out victims and also serve as a deterrent to those with similar intentions, and even save lives. This operation highlights the partnerships between the Whatcom County Sheriff’s office and other local, state and federal law enforcement agencies working together to keep our communities and children safe.”
At least three of the men arrested had access to other children who may have been at risk of abuse, KGMI says.
All of the men had little to no criminal history. They are all currently being charged with suspicion of attempted child rape and attempted communication with a minor for immoral purposes. A judge has ordered all of their bonds to be set at $50,000.
This and other sting operations have netted a total of 159 arrests and 22 rescued victims statewide since Whatcom and other Washington Counties have begun conducting these stings.