Undercover investigators from multiple law enforcement agencies a part of the Central California Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC) made the bust.
OPERATION “COVID CHAT DOWN”: 34 Central Valley men have been arrested and booked in the Fresno Co Jail on a number of charges related to arranging to meet with a child for sex. We’re moments away from a press conference with Sheriff Mims regarding the multi-agency bust. @ABC30 pic.twitter.com/QP0sRXub9x— Vanessa Vasconcelos (@VanessaABC30) August 7, 2020
The two-week operation was called Operation COVID CHAT DOWN.
The ICAC task force and Homeland Security posed as children ages 12 and 13 years old on several apps and arranged meetings with the suspects during online conversations.
Authorities say the suspects' ages range from 19-63.
Sheriff Margaret Mims said now more than ever, because of COVID-19, kids are spending more time on computers making them vulnerable to online predators.
"These people are out there these people exist and they're looking for your children and your grandchildren to exploit," she said.
The 34 men, including a repeat offender from Clovis, allegedly asked to meet the children.
However when they arrived, they were met by detectives.
ICAC task force (Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force) has made more than 90 arrests in 2020, for possession or distribution of child porn. They say some of those images include children being raped. @ABC30 pic.twitter.com/p3wyup1eXp— Vanessa Vasconcelos (@VanessaABC30) August 7, 2020
A video provided by the Fresno County Sheriff's Office shows 36-year-old Christopher Contreras being taken into custody.
"These are the only ones we know about, I'm sure there are more kids out there being exploited," said Mims.
The national center for missing and exploited children says online enticement reports have increased more than 93% this year compared to the same period last year.
As for ICAC task force arrests, now at more than 90 for 2020, they've almost doubled all of 2019 totals.
"They are preying on the boredom of the kids who say, 'I'm bored, I can't join my baseball team. I have to stay home, the only thing I can do is be online'," said Mims.
Mims went on to say this is the time to talk to your kids.
The district attorney's office has already received 32 of the 34 cases and 12 have already been arraigned on felony charges.