Law enforcement agencies from across the country came together recently to track down pedophiles. In the process, they made hundreds of arrests, including several here in the valley.
Immigration And Customs Enforcement director John Morton announced two-hundred-forty five arrests on criminal charges of child exploitation. The five-and-a-half week crackdown, known as operation sunflower, ended in early December. It targeted abusers and those who make or transmit child pornography. More than two-hundred of those individuals were arrested in the US, the rest were from overseas.
"We also identified and rescued 123 children from either active or past sexual abuse throughout the world", says Morton. Forty-four children were rescued directly from their abusers. Morton says, "we rescued five children who were between the ages of 2 and 3. Nine children were between the ages of 4 and 6. Twenty-one were between the ages of 7 and 9."
Authorities also say that some of those child sexual predators were found right here in the valley. Federal agents say 18 people, including 14 from Fresno and Tulare county, are now facing federal or state charges as a result of Operation Sunflower.
Three local children were also rescued, among them a 7-year-old disabled girl. Agents say the operation turned up more than a million photos and thousands of videos of children being sexually exploited in one Clovis man's home alone.
Statewide, 26 people were arrested in the operation.