By Jensen, Randy on June 27, 2020.
Three men from Lethbridge are among 18 suspects from Alberta who were arrested on 65 offences by ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit for offences related to online child sexual exploitation.
Most of the arrests came as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Co-ordination Centre, which works with internet and social media providers to track and investigate online instances of child sexual exploitation.
“Online child exploitation victimizes our most vulnerable and is a crime against an entire society that’s built around nurturing our children and keeping them safe,” said Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General, in a news release. “Identifying and arresting the perpetrators who prey on children is complex and challenging work, and I commend the investigators of ALERT’s ICE unit for their tireless dedication to this grim, but absolutely necessary, duty.”
ICE previously reported a record number of intakes in March. ICE received 243 reported instances of online child exploitation in Alberta that month, far exceeding the unit’s two-year average of roughly 110.
“This is a level of activity that has been unparallelled in the existence of the ICE unit,” said Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, ALERT CEO. “ICE is working incredibly hard to put predators behind bars, but we need parents to do their part and be vigilant of their kids’ online activities.”
Each of the suspects, including Bryan Alas Hernandez, 18, Brandon Bran Eguizabal, 26, and Yonatan Castro Linares, 25, all from Lethbridge, was charged with at least one child pornography offence.
ICE is an integrated team that includes members of Calgary Police, Edmonton Police, Lethbridge Police, Medicine Hat Police, and RCMP. ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, any computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism.