Nationwide Operation Broken Heart results in online child exploitation arrests in county

Investigators with the Contra Costa County Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force recently participated in the nationwide Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide effort to investigate individuals exploiting children on the internet. Throughout March, April and May, the team conducted investigations of subjects who distributed child pornography over the internet and focused on individuals traveling to Contra Costa County to meet minors to engage in sexual activity.

In addition to the proactive investigations the ICAC team participated in, a significant school outreach program was also undertaken to teach parents and students about the risks associated with smartphones and social media. During the three-month period, investigators and prosecutors delivered presentations at six schools, reaching 140 parents and over 300 students. During the 2017/2018 school year, the ICAC task force has delivered presentations to over 300 parents and over 2,800 students in Contra Costa County.

The three-month nation-wide operation by the ICAC Task Force Program resulted in the arrests of 2,300 suspected online child sex offenders.

“No child should ever have to endure sexual abuse,” U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions said. “And yet, in recent years, certain forms of modern technology have facilitated the spread of child pornography and created greater incentives for its production. We at the Department of Justice are determined to strike back against these repugnant crimes. It is shocking and very sad that in this one operation, we have arrested more than 2,300 alleged child predators and investigated some 25,200 sexual abuse complaints. Any would-be criminal should be warned: this Department will remain relentless in hunting down those who victimize our children.”

Some notable arrests and investigations conducted during Operation Broken Heart include:

-On April 6, 2018, investigators arrested Russell Meirose of Milpitas, California. Meirose was arrested after chatting online with someone he believed to be a 13-year old girl and enticing her to meet for sex. Meirose was arrested at a hotel in Pleasanton after he rented a room for the girl and himself. The girl he was talking to was actually an undercover police officer. Meirose has been charged with multiple felonies including attempted lewd acts with a child and arranging to meet a minor for sex.

-On April 19, 2018, investigators arrested Andrew Lund, a fourth grade teacher and school supervisor at Glen Cove Elementary school in Vallejo. Lund was arrested after it was determined he was sending harmful material to a person he believed to be a minor and attempting to arrange a meeting with that 14-year-old girl for sex. In reality, Lund was chatting with an undercover police officer. When investigators searched his house in Vallejo, they located child pornography on Lund’s cell phone. Lund has been charged with possession of child pornography and sending harmful material to a minor, among other charges.

In conjunction with Operation Broken Heart, on May 25, 2018, which is nationally recognized as Missing Children’s Day, the ICAC task force executed three search warrants in Contra Costa County, targeting offenders distributing child pornography.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office, Contra Costa FBI Safe Streets Task Force, San Ramon Police Department, United States Secret Service, San Jose Police Department, Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office and the Contra Costa County Probation Department served a search warrant in the 1200 block of Elmwood Drive in Walnut Creek. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County Sheriff’s Office served a search warrant in the 200 block of Hillside Ave in Antioch. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and arrested Raymond Myers for possession of child pornography. The Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

-Investigators with the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations, Child Exploitation Unit, served a search warrant on Brush Creek Drive in Pittsburg. Investigators located a significant quantity of child pornography on computer devices inside of the home and the Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office is currently reviewing the case for potential criminal charges.

The Silicon Valley Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is managed by the San Jose Police Department. In Contra Costa County, detectives and investigators from the Walnut Creek, Martinez, San Ramon, Concord and Moraga Police Departments, the Sheriff’s Office, Contra Costa County Probation Department and Contra Costa County District Attorney’s Office participate in the task force along with Special Agents from the United States Department of Homeland Security and the United States Secret Service.

Parents are encouraged to discuss online safety with their children and can visit the website www.kidsmartz.org for further information. If you believe your school or community organization would benefit from a smartphone and social media awareness presentation, please contact Deputy District Attorney Lauren Whalen at lwhalen@contracostada.org or Senior Inspector Darryl Holcombe at dholcombe@contracostada.org.

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