A California Highway Patrol officer and a California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation employee were among 15 alleged child predators arrested following a sting operation.
According to 23ABC, the Kern County Sheriff’s Office announced on Monday that the group of suspects has been charged with various crimes, including arranging to meet juveniles with the intent to perform lewd acts.
In a statement to the press, Sheriff Donny Youngblood praised the undercover operation as especially timely given the increased amount of time children are spending online amid the pandemic.
For the last several months, Youngblood explained, detectives have been posing as children aged 13 to 16 on various social media platforms, attracting the suspects whose ages range from 21 and 54.
“The most troubling thing was every single one of them was charged with trying to arrange a meeting with a minor for sexual acts,” said Youngblood. “You get on the internet and act like your a juvenile and they will come. These people can’t help themselves. They can’t control themselves.”
Youngblood expressed outrage that the suspects included a 51-year-old CHP officer and a 54-year-old CDCR contracted employee, both arrested for contacting a minor with the intent to perform lewd acts and arranging a meeting with them.
“Those are the things that are very troubling to us because it makes us all look bad,” said Youngblood.
“The CHP is aware of the arrest of Officer Brian Pardue by the KCSO for alleged behavior that occurred while the employee was off duty,” CHP said in a statement, according to 23ABC. “The CHP continues to fully cooperate with the investigating agency and we are conducting our own investigation into the allegations.”
CHP also noted that Pardue is no longer an employee with the department.
California Correctional Health Care Services also issued a statement about their employee, declaring that “Ricardo Mancillas is currently on a leave of absence from his position as an information technology specialist at Wasco State Prison. We cannot provide comment on an open investigation.”
During the operation, detectives received numerous messages from the suspects, including two registered sex offenders. Thirteen of the suspects showed up at a planned location where they thought a minor would be. One suspect, a 49-year-old man, even drove down to Bakersfield from Oregon to meet with who he believed was a child.
As for the operation, Sheriff Youngblood said that it isn’t over and that detectives will continue to have a presence on various social media platforms in search of predators.
For parents, Sheriff Youngblood offered a stern warning: “We have to encourage parents to actively be involved in your child’s life. Know what they’re doing on the computer.”
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