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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Eastern District of North Carolina

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 12, 2018

More Than 2,300 Suspected Online Child Sex Offenders Arrested During Operation “Broken Heart” Including One In The Eastern District Of North Carolina

RALEIGH — The Department of Justice today announced the arrest of more than 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders during a three-month, nationwide, operation conducted by Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces. The task forces identified 195 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and 383 children who suffered recent, ongoing, or historical sexual abuse or production of child pornography. 

The 61 ICAC task forces, located in all 50 states and comprised of more than 4,500 federal, state, local and tribal law enforcement agencies, led the coordinated operation known as “Broken Heart” during the months of March, April, and May 2018.  During the course of the operation, the task forces investigated more than 25,200 complaints of technology-facilitated crimes against children and delivered more than 3,700 presentations on Internet safety to over 390,000 youth and adults.  

"No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse," Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. "And yet, in recent years, certain forms of modern technology have facilitated the spread of child pornography and created greater incentives for its production. We at the Department of Justice are determined to strike back against these repugnant crimes. It is shocking and very sad that in this one operation, we have arrested more than 2,300 alleged child predators and investigated some 25,200 sexual abuse complaints. Any would-be criminal should be warned: this Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children."

The operation targeted suspects who: (1) produce, distribute, receive and possess child pornography; (2) engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; (3) engage in the sex trafficking of children; and (4) travel across state lines or to foreign countries and sexually abuse children.

As part of Operation “Broken Heart”, United States Attorney for the Eastern District of North Carolina, Robert J. Higdon, Jr., announced that on May 16, 2018, a federal grand jury sitting in Raleigh, indicted ANDRE THORPE on seven counts involving child exploitation, including four counts of production of child pornography, two counts of transporting a minor interstate with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity, and one count of possession of child pornography. The alleged conduct involves years-long sexual abuse of a minor victim, and investigators have identified other alleged minor victims of THORPE as well. If convicted of all counts, THORPE faces not less than 15 years and up to life in prison.  This case was investigated by the Office of Homeland Security Investigation in Raleigh.  All defendants are innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.

The ICAC Program is funded through the Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP).  In 1998, OJJDP launched the ICAC Task Force Program to help federal, state, and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the Internet, online communication systems or computer technology to exploit children. To date, ICAC Task Forces have reviewed more than 775,000 complaints of child exploitation, which resulted in the arrest of more than 83,000 individuals. In addition, since the ICAC program's inception, more than 629,400 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other professionals have been trained on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC-related cases.

For more information, visit the ICAC Task Force webpage at: https://www.icactaskforce.org/.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Updated June 12, 2018