Federal law enforcement officials made major arrests this week in an international child exploitation investigation.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 255 people and identified 61 child victims during a five-week investigation. The international joint task force was known as Operation I-Guardian.
ICE agents say they're seeing a disturbing new trend. Predators are increasingly turning to the Internet for their victims, sexually extorting minors to produce graphic images and videos.
"Protecting our youth in the digital age requires all of us to be on the lookout for child predators abusing and extorting victims online," ICE Director John Morton admonished in a press release. "Children and parents need to understand that not everyone online is who they say they are."
"The Internet is too big, the number of users too large, illusive, and scattered throughout the world," he said. "Deceit, impersonation, and blackmail are the tricks of this terrible trade."
So far this year, more than 1,600 arrests have been made in similar investigations.