A raid across 19 states by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE) has rescued 100 sexually abused children and led to the arrest of 245 pedophiles.
The investigation, dubbed 'Operation Sunflower,' identified many of the victims from child pornography using photo forensics. Five of the victims were less than three years old. In addition to the children rescued, the investigation also identified 24 abuse victims who are now adults.
Police arrested Bradley Vaine of Fresno, California; Stephen Keating of Jusup, Georgia; Mickell Close of Columbus, Ohio; Gerald Roberts of Pageland, South Carolina; Michael Wioskowski of Eastpoint, Michigan; Samuel Gueyden of Clovis, California; and Michael Lindsay of San Francisco.
'Operation Sunflower' was named after its first case in November of 2011. That case was able to rescue an 11-year-old victim by identifying a sunflower-shaped road sign in pictures where the abuse was taking place. It took special agents only 13 days to find the small Kansas town and rescue the young girl before she could be harmed further.
"We applaud our partners at ICE for their worldwide work in identifying these victims of child sexual exploitation and for helping to remove these children from extremely dangerous situations," said National Center for Missing and Exploited Children CEO John Ryan.
ICE director John Morton is committed to saving the victims of child abuse and exploitation, and prosecuting all those responsible.
"Whenever our investigations reveal the production and distribution of new child pornography online, we will do everything we can to rescue the victim and prosecute the abuser even if it takes us years or around the world to do it. A relentless fight against child exploitation is the only answer."
This is certainly an ongoing fight, but 'Operation Sunflower' scored a major victory.