77 arrested in Florida child porn crackdown

June 10th, 2009 by

State, federal and local authorities have arrested 77 suspects on child pornography charges and rescued five young victims in what officials are calling “Operation Orange Tree,” Gov. Charlie Crist said Tuesday.

“America’s Most Wanted” TV host John Walsh and Attorney General Bill McCollum joined Crist at a news conference to announce results of the 10-week crackdown.

The suspects range in age from 17 to 83 and include two registered sex offenders. The last person was arrested Tuesday in Tallahassee. Nearly all have been charged with possession of obscene material or child pornography. One each has been charged with distributing child pornography, molesting children and obscene communication.

Five children were removed from suspects’ homes including three who were subjects of videos, said Florida Department of Law Commissioner Gerald Bailey. He said authorities found evidence the other two children also had been sexually victimized.

Seventeen suspects were in possession of a step-by-step manual on how to molest children, Bailey said.

Twenty-three law enforcement agencies participated. The Polk County Sheriff’s Office was most active with 45 arrests. Other suspects were scattered throughout the state. Authorities executed 90 search warrants and seized thousands of child pornography photos and videos.

Walsh called the crackdown “historic” and heaped praise on Crist and McCollum, saying he hoped both Republicans win their next political races. Crist is running for U.S. senator and McCollum for governor.

“The cooperation between different agencies in the state of Florida I think is unprecedented,” said Walsh, whose 6-year-old son was abducted from a Hollywood mall and murdered in 1981. “They are a SWAT team for children.”

Crist said he “cannot think of a more despicable action and more harmful crime.”

McCollum, who has made fighting cybercrime a hallmark of his term as attorney general, said he’s determined to bring violators to justice.

“We’re going to get ‘em and where we don’t get ‘em, we’re going to educate children to protect themselves,” McCollum said.

Miami Herald


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