Two Southwest Florida men are among 255 accused child predators served with arrest warrants during a five-week operation conducted by several state and federal agencies.
Some 61 victims of child sexual exploitation were also identified, authorities announced Monday.
John Baptista Malheiro, 53, of Cape Coral was served a state search warrant and arrested on June 7 by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Homeland Security Investigations Fort Myers. He is accused of distributing child pornography via computer network and was actively downloading child exploitation materials when officers arrived. He was subsequently arrested.
Derrick Lynn Brewster, 60, of Fort Myers, was served a search warrant by the the FDLE, the Fort Myers Police Department and the Florida Highway Patrol and arrested June 27 on charges of possession of child pornography.
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations and Internet Crimes Against Children task forces aided the arrests.
Operation iGuardian ran May 28 to June 30 as part of HSI's Operation Predator to identify and rescue victims of online sexual exploitation, and to arrest abusers as well as others who own, trade and produce images of child pornography.
"Protecting our youth in the digital age requires all of us to be on the lookout for child predators abusing and extorting victims online," said ICE Director John Morton. "Children and parents need to understand that not everyone online is who they say they are. Child abusers prowl social media looking for opportunities to force young people into sexual exploitation through guile, deceit, and extortion."
Twenty-four of the 61 victims identified during the Operation iGuardian were engaging online with strangers who sexually exploited them. Their ages ranged from 7 to 17, the majority aged 13 to 15 years old.
Of the 61 victims identified, four were under the age of 3; five were ages 4 to 6; 13 were ages 7 to 9; 10 were ages 10 to 12; 23 were ages 13 to 15; and six were ages 16 to 17. Forty-two were girls and 19 were boys.
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