EL CENTRO – The Imperial County Sheriff’s office Tuesday announced the arrest of nine individuals resulting from an extensive multi-agency operation targeting Internet sex crimes against children. Charges included luring a minor for sexual exploitation, attempting to commit sexual conduct with a minor under 14, and attempting to commit molestation of a minor under 14.
“This has been a very successful operation,” said Raymond Loera, ICSO Sheriff-Coroner, “and the culmination of an intense nine-day operation that lead to the arrest of nine individuals involving child exploitation with the use of the Internet.”
The Imperial County Sheriff’s Office, in collaboration with Homeland Security Investigations, the El Centro Police Department, the United States Marshals Service, the United States Border Patrol, the Escondido Police Department, and the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office, all joined together to conduct the anti-child exploitation operation dubbed “Desert Guardian” that took approximately three weeks.
“This is an example of the close working relationship between law enforcement agencies, not only in Imperial County, but also San Diego County and Federal Law Enforcement,” said Loera. “We cannot be as effective working alone. We are all committed to public safety, in particular this operation (Desert Guardian), involving the most vulnerable and important part of our community… our children.”
Those arrested on suspicion of sexual exploitation of children included six El Centro residents, Oscar M. Ortiz, Juan Reyes Escareño, Efe Erukanure, Manuel Elias, Erik Ramirez and Braulio Paz Carillo; Imperial resident Jonathan Carillo; San Diego resident Jesus Echeverria and Canadian, Darryl Bunney.
“This operation definitely impacted our community,” said Sgt. Jimmy Duran, ICSO South County Investigations. “This is the place where we live, where our children grow and where our families go about their business. This definitely made an impact in Imperial County.”
According to Sgt. Duran, all nine cases have been filed with the Imperial County District Attorney’s Office. At this time, all arrestees are under custody with the exception of Efe Erukanure, who posted bail.
“All nine individuals were charged with luring a minor for sexual exploitation, attempting to commit sexual conduct with a minor under 14, and attempting to commit molestation of a minor under 14 with the exception of Erik Ramirez who faces additional charges for resisting arrest and Braulio Paz Carillo with resisting arrest and possession of methamphetamine,” said Sgt. Duran.
According to Sgt. Duran, no victims have been identified at this time and the media source utilized for the acts cannot be disclosed at the time.
On March 1, the Imperial County Board of Supervisors approved $91,929 in funding for the remainder of the 2015-2016 fiscal year to hire one Deputy District Attorney, one District Attorney Investigator and one Investigative Assistant to focus solely on human exploitation cases including crimes against children, human trafficking, and commercial sexual exploitation.
According to Imperial County District Attorney Gilbert Otero, to date, two attorneys have been hired and one additional hiring is in the process.
“We should have our staff hired in the next few weeks,” said Otero. “We are want to be at Homeland Security Investigations as soon as possible.”
By law, persons convicted of specified sex crimes are required to register as sex offenders with a local law enforcement agency. Prior to release from prison, jail, a mental hospital, or placed on probation, sex offenders are notified in writing of their duty to register, and a copy of the notification form is forwarded to the Department of Justice (DOJ). When a sex offender is released into the community, the agency forwards the registration information to DOJ.
All participating agencies are members of the San Diego Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which is dedicated to help state and local law enforcement agencies to develop an effective response to technology-facilitated child sexual exploitation and Internet crimes against children.