‘Evil’: Sacramento sheriff, task force announce 12 arrests in child pornography operation

Federal, state and local law enforcement agencies across California’s capital region announced Tuesday that they arrested 12 local men accused of having pornography depicting infants and toddlers during a two-week investigation called “Operation Monster Mash.”

The suspects, hailing from Sacramento, Elk Grove, Citrus Heights, Isleton, Roseville and other nearby cities, were arrested by the Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force, which investigates cyber crimes. Prosecutors have charged each man with crimes related to having child porn or inappropriately touching a child, authorities said.

“You have no idea how horrific it is to these kids,” Sacramento County Sheriff Jim Cooper said, also describing the suspects as “evil,” during a news conference. “The abuse they suffer — it’s going to scar them for life.”

Meta, which owns Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp, provided the tips that authorities reviewed, Cooper said. The social media platform referred 27 million tips last year to authorities about potential child sex abuse material, he said.

Some offenders had more than 10,000 images of child porn, while others had five terabytes worth of content, said Sheriff’s Office Sgt. Brandon Gayman, who supervised the operation.

Another suspect was accused of touching children. A 40-year-old Citrus Heights man was charged with 12 counts of lewd acts with a minor by force or fear, eight counts of lewd acts with a minor under 14 and one count of possessing child pornography, Gayman said.

Officials said internet crimes against children will only increase as time goes on and technology improves. The proliferation of child porn online doesn’t only mean adults can watch it, according to Cooper; children can now also find sex acts involving minors on the internet, he said.

Speakers at Tuesday’s news conference also encouraged victims or anyone else with information about alleged perpetrators to come forward.

There are faceless and nameless kids who are depicted in the horrific photographs, said Sacramento County Assistant Chief Deputy District Attorney Dawn Bladet, who oversees the prosecution of sex crimes and family violence.

She said the DA’s Office added a prosecutor to the cyber crimes unit because the number of cases has increased.

“These folks don’t get rehabilitated,” Cooper said. “These individuals are the scum of the earth.”

The Sacramento Valley Hi-Tech Crimes Task Force has previously conducted operations to stop crimes against children.

The Sheriff’s Office announced in July that the task force arrested 23 Northern California men who allegedly shared child porn online.

In March, law enforcement agencies arrested 18 Northern California men, including 13 from Sacramento County, who were suspected of seeking to contact children for sex, according to The Sacramento Bee’s previous reporting. Dubbed “Operation Secret Admirer,” some were accused of grooming children by sending nude photos of themselves.