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10 charged for attempting to sexually exploit children
internet stingIn December, 10 people, ages 20 to 59, were charged for attempting to sexually exploit children. The defendants were arrested during a two-week sting operation, led by the Washington State Patrol’s Missing and Exploited Children Task Force. They were charged with attempted rape of a child, attempted sexual commercial abuse of a minor and communicating with a minor for immoral purposes. All pleaded not guilty and were ordered held in lieu of bail ranging from $50,000 to $250,000.

"Nothing is more important than protecting our children," said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. "Our goal here was to hold these particular defendants accountable and also to send a message and deter all those who seek to exploit children."

Undercover law enforcement officers communicated with the defendants over the Internet and through text messaging. There were two scenarios used in the operation. In one, officers posed as a mother who posted online ads in an effort to sell her young children for sex. A man and woman drove from Vancouver, Wash. to have sex with who they thought were the mother’s three children, ages 8 to 13. In the second scenario, officers posed as a 13-year-old girl, and responded to online sexual encounter ads the defendants posted.

One defendant told police that he responds to Internet ads an average of two times per day. He said he has a master’s degree in social work, has attended sexual exploitation seminars at work, and has been trained in communicating with victims of sexual abuse.

Multiple agencies collaborated in this operation including: the Washington State Patrol’s (WSP) Missing and Exploited Children Task Force (MECTF), Richland Police Department, Pierce County Sheriff’s Office, Tacoma Police Department, Lakewood Police Department, United States Postal Inspection Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Federal Bureau of Investigations, Pierce County Prosecutor’s Office and the Washington State Attorney General’s Office.

Charges are only allegations and a person is presumed innocent unless he or she is proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt.