Sex trafficking sting nets seven arrests
J.R. Oppenheim and Caleb James
July 21, 2017 10:09 PM
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. -- Authorities arrested seven men connected to an underage sex trafficking operation this week, the New Mexico Attorney General's Office announced Friday afternoon.
According to criminal complaints, the seven men tried to solicit sex with someone they believed to be a 15-year-old girl. That person, however, was an undercover Bernalillo County sheriff's deputy.
The sting, dubbed Operation Recovery, lasted four days. The attorney general's office says the suspects offered anywhere from $40 to $200 to have sex with teens.
"There is no higher priority than protecting our children from sexual violence and dangerous sexual predators, and I want to thank all of the agencies that worked together on this successful operation to combat the trafficking of children in New Mexico," Attorney General Hector Balderas said.
The suspects are Daniel Apodaca, Christopher Goulardt, Christ Sathoud, William Long, Jacob Samora, Richard Sanchez and Vu Nguyen. Authorities say all communicated online with a girl they believed to be 15. All showed up to an Albuquerque address according to police, ready for sex.
"The individuals that we deal with are individuals that we would think would not be doing something like this and they are doing this, said Anthony Maez, a special agent for the Attorney General's Office.
Maez said sting operations like this one aim to identify predators actively seeking children for sex. Predators often hide in plain sight, Maez said, and the task force that smokes them out is made up of almost every agency imaginable. This sting was led by Homeland Security.
Maez said websites and social media apps must report inappropriate chats and conversations to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. It's how many of these strings and investigations begin -- with a report from the center.
Real children are exploited online each day in New Mexico," Maez said.
"We're seeing that across the state in every jurisdiction that children are doing that more and more -- sending out images of themselves and being extorted more and more," he said.
Several agencies contributed to the operation, including Homeland Security Investigations, the Albuquerque Police Department and BCSO.
"I truly believe in the effort to advocate for victims who have been forced into a life of sex trafficking and placed in a position to restore stability in their life," Bernalillo County Sheriff Manuel Gonzales III said. "This partnership has proven to be fruitful in targeting sex traffickers who prey on minors. Let this be a notice to those who participate in sex trafficking that law enforcement will hold you accountable."
For more information about Attorney General's Office Internet Crimes Against Children Unit, click here to go to its website.
J.R. Oppenheim and Caleb James
Updated: July 21, 2017 10:09 PM
Created: July 21, 2017 04:08 PM
Copyright 2017 KOB-TV LLC, a Hubbard Broadcasting Company. All rights reserved