AG's CyberCrime operation nets 3 arrests in Manatee, 29 in Fla.

The state attorney general's office issued this in a press release today:

TALLAHASSEE – Attorney General Bill McCollum today joined law enforcement officials from 15 Tampa area agencies to announce the results of a six-week cybercrime operation. The operation, dubbed “Operation Broken Heart,” was a cooperative effort targeting the Tampa Bay area and resulted in 29 arrests, including one registered sex offender. The operation was initiated and led by the Attorney General’s Tampa CyberCrime Task Force. The Bradenton Police Department and the Sarasota Police Department cooperated in the effort, netting three arrests in Manatee and three in Sarasota.

“We know that cybercrime knows no geographical boundaries, which is why it is essential that we work together to maximize our resources,” said Attorney General McCollum. “This operation proved that when we work together, Florida’s children benefit.”

During the operation, 45 search warrants were executed and 29 arrests were made; charges range from possession and distribution of child pornography to sexual battery. Some of the images collected from the defendants depicted children as young as infants. Two girls were also rescued during the operation after disclosing they were the subject of sexual abuse. Several investigations are still pending.

“Our greatest challenge is to protect children, and our greatest satisfaction is when those who prey on the innocent are identified, prosecuted and prevented from ruining any more young lives,'' said Sheriff David Gee. "These predators hide in the shadow of anonymity on the Internet. Operation Broken Heart will shine the light of law enforcement on them and their vile and disgusting acts against the most innocent among us.''

“Today’s announcement should serve as a reminder to predators that the Florida Attorney General, ICE and the law enforcement community in Florida are united in its effort to protect the most vulnerable segment of our society -- our children,” said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of the ICE Office of Investigations in Tampa. “Together, we will use every tool and authority under law to ensure that predators are taken off our streets and are put behind bars where they belong.”

The official launch of “Operation Broken Heart” was on Feb. 8 and the operation concluded last night with two arrests. The Attorney General’s Office CyberCrime Unit and the 15 law enforcement agencies involved are all members of Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children.

The agencies that participated in the operation include U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, the Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the New Port Richey Police Department, the Clearwater Police Department, the Plant City Police Department, the St. Petersburg Police Department, the Kenneth City Police Department, the Bradenton Police Department and the Sarasota Police Department.