Arrests Continue in International Child Porn Sting

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U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents continue to make arrests in a five-week international child pornography sting: 247 men and women are now behind bars, accused of sexually exploiting children.

Two of those arrests - Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, and Lance Robert Fries, 43 - were made less than 24 hours after agents released the suspects' photos in the media.

They're the latest suspects arrested in "Operation Sunflower," an ICE sting to identify and rescue victims of child pornography.

Montemayor faced a judge in a California court Tuesday. Investigators say their five-week sting discovered her in photos with children as far back as 11 years ago.

"The results were significant but grim and demands, absolutely demands, our full attention as a nation," ICE Director John Morton said.

ICE agents said the Internet has made child pornography a growing international business. It's now also being streamed live worldwide.

According to Morton, the criminals often aren't strangers to their young victims.

"When we found 44 of our victims they were living with the very person who was sexually abusing them," he said.

Their unit identified and rescued 123 child victims:

  • 110 were in the United States.
  • 46 were younger than 12.
  • Five were under the age of three.

"It's a serious problem," Homeland Security's Special Agent John Callahan said. "It's a problem that we have to get our hands around because it's not getting any better."

Callahan said child pornography is one of the fastest growing crimes in America. In fact, there has been a 2,500 percent increase in arrests in 10 years.

The National Center for Missing and Exploited Children reviewed more than 10.5 million images of child porn in 2009 alone. Investigators note a serial child molester could have as many as 400 victims in his lifetime.

In another disturbing trend, the victims of child pornography are getting younger. Federal agents say some are just babies.

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