Tulare County Sheriff’s Department continues to crack down on sexual predators targeting our county’s youth. On Monday, August 22, Tulare County Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced seven men were arrested over the weekend following an operation similar to “Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator.”
Called Operation Baby Face II, the arrests were an offshoot of the sheriff’s department investigation of a human trafficking ring earlier in August. During the human trafficking investigation sheriff deputies discovered the prevalence of men using the internet to solicit minors for sex.
On August 11, the Tulare County Sheriff’s Operation Baby Face dismantled a human trafficking organization that sexually exploited 23 juveniles and 29 adults. Three primary suspects were arrested for human trafficking, and 12 people were arrested for co-conspiracy. That investigation continues as deputies go through confiscated computers and cell phones.
As a result of Operation Baby Face Phase I, detectives learned of sexual predators operating separately from the human trafficking case via social media. Operation Baby Face Phase II focuses on these predators.
During the human trafficking investigation a female deputy portrayed herself as a16-year-old girl living in Tulare County. Within seconds, several men pursued her for sexual liaisons even though it was clear she was underage.
The female deputy said that the conversation turned sexual within seconds of communicating online with multiple suspects who would send naked pictures of themselves. The undercover deputy agreed to meet with 13 predators at different times late Friday night and early Saturday morning during an undercover operation.
The sting took place at a private residence at an undisclosed home in Tulare County. The story the female deputy told the men was that she was house sitting for her aunt and was home alone. Some men arrived at the house with alcohol and condoms.
Very similar to the television show “Dateline NBC: To Catch A Predator,” the suspects agreed to show up at an undisclosed location and were arrested for soliciting a juvenile for sexual exploitation as they entered the home.
The seven men who showed up to the house were arrested. Six additional suspects who arranged to meet at the house with the undercover deputy but did not make it within the time frame were also arrested. Those six suspects are active felony cases and detectives will continue to collect evidence to determine if appropriate charges should be filed with the District Attorney.
According to the sheriff’s department, “while they didn’t meet the criteria of a human trafficking case, they did pursue her, whom they believed to be a female juvenile, for sexual acts. That is a crime.”
All those arrested were from Kings, Fresno and Tulare Counties. One perpetrator was scheduled to arrive from Texas but did not make it to the house in time. The sheriff’s department felt it needed to shut down the sting operation by Saturday afternoon.
The following suspects were arrested: Mario Sanchez, 25 of Woodlake, Serafin De Jesus Rosales, 27 of Earlimart, Eduardo Prado-Castaneda, 26 of Strathmore, Luis Angel Hernandez, 28 of Hanford, Salvador Campos Jr., 35 of Orosi, Jesus Angel Narez, 23 of Fresno and Armondo Paz-Rea, 31 of Hanford were arrested and booked into the Tulare County Pretrial Facility.
Paz-Rae was has been released on bail.
“I want the public’s attention,” Boudreaux said. “The public needs to know that there are predators looking to prey on the innocence of our children. We will be vigilant and aggressive in identifying these predators.”
Parental involvement is vital in protecting our children, Boudreaux said. There needs to be community awareness about what children face online.
“We have only just begun to scratch the surface on the predators trying to lure our children online into sexual exploitation,” said Boudreaux.
Boudreaux encourages parents to talk with their children about what children are doing online and how it could possibly lead to victimization. “Speak to your children,” he said. “Ask the difficult questions.” He emphasized that kids have hundreds on on-line friends but actually know very few of them.
The Sheriff’s Office will be kicking off an internet awareness child safety campaign in the near future. “There are predators seeking our children,” said Boudreaux. “Our goal is to educate children and their parents about how to keep children safe.”
Boudreaux’ message for the kids was, “choose your friends wisely. Be aware that there are predators who say they want to be your friends. When someone asks you to send a revealing photo of yourself, say no and notify your parents. Photos on the internet last forever.”
Boudreaux asked the public to contact law enforcement if you discover something suspicious at (559) 733-6218 or anonymously through TipNow at (559) 725-4194 or [email protected].