LOCAL NEWS

15 Utahns arrested in Operation Cyber Strike accused of using the internet to ‘sexually exploit children’

May 2, 2024, 4:26 PM | Updated: 6:36 pm

SALT LAKE CITY The Utah Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested 15 individuals in a four-day operation from April 22 – April 25.

Operation Cyber Strike was an effort to locate and apprehend individuals who were “actively using the internet to sexually exploit children,” according to a release from the Utah Attorney General’s Office.

The operation involved 70 task force agents from 31 different federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies. Law enforcement served search warrants at multiple homes of offenders who downloaded, viewed, and distributed child sexual abuse material. Agents also used undercover chats on social media to find individuals who were attempting to meet up with children for sexual activity.

“It’s a huge problem, and it’s a growing problem,” Matt Thompson, assistant commander over ICAC, said.

He said sexploitation is among the reasons why they take on focused efforts, like Operation Cyber Strike, where agencies essentially blitz an area of concern.

The operation late last month centered on the Wasatch Front

“The biggest thing that parents can do is just be there and ask a lot of questions,” Thompson said. “That really is our biggest tool, open dialogues on what our kids are seeing, what they need to look out for.”

He said predators are starting to take over actual teen accounts to then target minors.

“Essentially a real profile with a bad actor on the other side,” Thompson said.

Thompson said that with new apps coming out everyday, internet filters and security programs can’t keep up with it all. But an open and non-threatening relationship can fill in a lot of those gaps.

“I want to thank the many agents, affiliates and partners of Utah’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force for their bravery and hard work in last week’s Operation Cyber Strike. I am convinced we have the best ICAC agents, prosecutors and affiliates in America,” Attorney General Sean Reyes said. “As disturbing as it is to have so many predators lurking in social media and gaming apps, it is equally comforting to know how effective our ICAC team is at combating those who actively seek to exploit children. This operation is another example of how local, state, and federal agencies work to keep Utah’s children and families safe from online threats.”

The operation was hosted by the Utah County Sheriff’s Office in Provo and arrests were made in Weber, Davis, Summit, Salt Lake, and Utah counties. The 15 individuals arrested face felony level charges including sexual exploitation of a minor, dealing in harmful materials to a minor, enticing a minor, and human trafficking of a child.

The agencies involved include: American Fork PD – ATF – AP&P Northern Region – AP&P Region III – Bluffdale PD – Clearfield PD— Davis Co. Atty. Ofc. – Davis Co. SO – Draper PD – HSI – Layton PD – Lehi PD – North Salt Lake PD – Ogden PD — Park City PD – Payson PD – RCFL – Roy PD – Salem PD – Sandy PD – Sevier Co. SO – South Salt Lake PD — Summit Co. SO – US Secret Service – Utah Attorney General’s Ofc. – Utah Co. Atty. Ofc. – Utah Co. SO — Weber State University PD – West Jordan PD – West Valley PD – Woods Cross PD

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15 Utahns arrested in Operation Cyber Strike accused of using the internet to ‘sexually exploit children’