Thirty-four men were arrested in an undercover operation targeting “would-be” child sexual predators, Fresno County Sheriff Margaret Mims announced Friday.
Overall, 34 men have been arrested and booked into jail on various charges related to arranging to meet with a child for sex — ranging in age from 19 to 63, according to KTLA sister station KSEE/KGPE in Fresno.
Mims said one of the most notable arrests was that of Thomas Binford, 55, of Clovis.
Binford is a registered sex offender, who was previously arrested for sexually assaulting a child. Along with the crime of trying to meet with a child for sex, detectives found Binford to be in possession of child pornography.
Mims said the images included that of infant bondage and infant rape.
Another man arrested had intentions of having unprotected sex with a 13-year-old girl, Mims said.
He later told detectives he is HIV positive.
Operation “COVID Chat Down” took place from July 20 to Aug 2.
Many agencies were involved, including: the Fresno County Sheriff’s Office, MAGEC, the Fresno Police Department, the Clovis Police Department, the Kingsburg Police Department, the Parlier Police Department, the San Luis Obispo Police Department, the Fresno County District Attorney’s Office, the Contra Costa District Attorney’s Office, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, and Homeland Security Investigations.
Investigators posed as 12- and 13-year-old boys and girls.
In their conversations, suspects “used sexually explicit language and sent graphic photos to the detective pretending to be a child.”
Suspects were arrested at predetermined locations on the idea they were meeting with the children.
This is an ongoing investigation and more arrests could be made.
With more children online because of the pandemic, there is more risk of encountering a sexual predator who is seeking relationships with children, officials say.