SCOTTSDALE, Ariz. - An undercover operation in the Phoenix area has led to the arrest of several suspects.
According to police, the four-day 'Operation Back In Session' resulted in the arrests of eight people for alleged child sex crimes. The multi-agency effort involved police in Avondale, Scottsdale, and Surprise, as well as a Homeland Security division in Scottsdale.
"Everyone seems to be kind of having the same problem, unfortunately," said Officer Aaron Bolin with Scottsdale Police.
The eight men are reportedly accused of trying to sexually exploit those who they believed to be minors. The men arrested were identified as:
- Jesse Barry
- Bernard Camp
- Jose Frias
- Mohamed Megahed
- Jason Michelli
- Terry Patton
- Lu Reh
- Cesar Sepulveda
The suspects, according to a statement by Scottsdale Police, face a variety of charges, including child sex trafficking, attempted sexual conduct with a minor, and attempted money laundering.
"Our detectives and other agencies’ detectives will often go undercover. They create a profile on different social media apps," said Officer Bolin.
Then, the detectives sit and wait for the conversation and the sexual offers to come to them.
"As the conversation unfolds, it's made very apparent to the person they're talking with that they are an underage person," said Officer Bolin.
A meeting is often agreed to, where detectives are waiting for them with handcuffs ready. The idea is to get these people off the streets before a real minor becomes a victim.
"Most often, our young people are not being kidnapped from malls, kidnapped from movie theaters. It's nothing typically overt," said Officer Bolin. "There are times that innocent underage people become victims, but they're usually then being solicited and being talked to online through these different applications."
Officials did not go into detail on these investigative tactics, because Officer Bolin said they actually do an operation like this every two months at some departments around the Phoenix area, and it could compromise future investigations. Officials do, however, encourage parents to monitor their child's online behavior.