HOLLYWOOD, CA — The U.S. Department of Justice announced charges of child sexual exploitation and several convictions against eight Southland men with alleged victims across the region and as far away as Tanzania Tuesday.
Among those named is a Hollywood man accused of possessing thousands of images of child pornography and discussing plans with an undercover federal agent to meet a 9-year-old child for sex.
At least one of the men remains a wanted fugitive. Patch was unable to reach any of the suspects or their representatives for comment.
The cases are part of the Department of Justice’s Project Safe Childhood, which focuses on online child exploitation.
In several of the cases, the suspects met children online and pressured, tricked or threatened them to send explicit images of themselves or to meet in person for sex, according to prosecutors. The alleged victims include a child as young as seven. In one Southland case, several disabled children were repeatedly raped by a nurse caretaker who is awaiting sentencing after sharing videos of the rapes with two other men.
In some of the cases, the children’s guardians discovered the alleged exploitation after the fact. In other cases, parents intervened in time to prevent further exploitation, according to the justice department.
The cases reflect a major area of concern for federal investigators — tackling child exploitation in an era when predators have easy access to children online.
In one extreme case, an Illinois man named Dakota Griffin used an app to meet a Los Angeles County teenager, prosecutors allege. He created an elaborate kidnapping hoax to intimidate her and threatened in explicit detail to rape and kill her and her loved ones if she didn’t submit to his sexual demands, according to the criminal complaint filed in federal court. Her family found out when they stopped her from getting into a taxi to go meet with the man who threatened to rape and kill her and her loved ones, according to the complaint.
“Protecting our children from sexual exploitation is some of the most important work my office does,” U.S. Attorney Martin Estrada said in a statement.
“For years, we have vigorously prosecuted child sexual predators, and we have only increased those efforts in recent times. To those who would seek to victimize our youth, let me be clear: We will use every tool in our arsenal to bring you to justice and thereby stop you from causing further irreparable harm to others.”
In cases filed in Los Angeles in recent weeks, the defendants were accused of exploiting children in person and on the Internet.
The defendants facing charges in Los Angeles federal court are:
City News Service contributed to this report.
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