‘Operation Predator’ at 2,000 Arrest Mark

Rhett Pardon
SACRAMENTO -- When El Dorado Hills, Calif., resident Larry Michael Jeffs was arrested last week for various child pornography charges, his apprehension was part of “Operation Predator,” a federal program targeting child predators.

Since the program began in July, Operation Predator has netted more than 2,000 arrests worldwide, including arrests of U.S. citizens who have traveled abroad to have sex with minors, people charged with molesting mentally impaired children, and those who smuggled foreign children into the U.S. to work as prostitutes, as well as those who manufacture or distribute child pornography on the Internet.

Jeffs' story may not have been typical of those arrested under Operation Predator, but the way in which authorities searched out his alleged crime was.

His case originally came under scrutiny through the program operated by the Department of Homeland Security after U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents traced explicit computer images recovered during an ongoing probe in Detroit.

He is alleged to have videotaped himself molesting his daughter, who was only 2 months old at the time, and then distributing it over the Internet to a Detroit man. The 41-year-old air traffic controller is being held without bond at the Sacramento County Jail on federal child pornography charges.

According to the federal complaint obtained by XBiz, Jeffs told agents last week that he began posing nude with his baby “at the request of chat group members.”

The federal complaint said images in the 77-frame video distributed over the Internet show the infant lying nude on a baby blanket decorated with pink rabbits while a sexually explicit act was being performed in the presence of the child.

Authorities say they believe the infant, now 8 months old, is one of the youngest sexual assault victims they have ever encountered.

Jeffs is charged with distributing child pornography and production of child pornography involving a parent. If convicted on both counts, he faces a maximum sentence of 50 years in prison.

The Operation Predator investigation in Jeffs case used real-time eavesdropping on computer conversations authorized by a 2003 law, the Prosecutorial Remedies and Other Tools to End the Exploitation of Children Today, or PROTECT, Act. That law makes Internet-related sexual abuse of minors a so-called Title III crime, which allows court-ordered wiretaps.

Joan Irvine, executive director of Adult Sites Against Child Pornography (ASACP), said it takes a combined effort like Operation Predator to nab criminals and that she hopes her group’s work to identify predators has helped in these types of investigations.

“ASACP and the professionals in the adult-site industry are pleased that they can contribute to this effort,” Irvine said.

But the Jeffs case, she said, is beyond anyone’s imagination.

“The truth of the matter is that most child porn images are of very young children,” Irvine said. “But that a father would sexually abuse his 2 month old is beyond sick and then to distribute the video for others to view is disgusting.”