Teams of federal agents and local authorities this week arrested 28 people, including 12 men in Stanislaus County, during a two-day sweep of convicted sex offenders aimed at reducing the exploitation and abuse of children on the Internet.
The FBI's Sacramento-based Cyber Crimes Task Force led the sweeps, targeting child predators and pornographers. Twenty-seven local agencies assisted.
Among those searched during the sweep were people being investigated for sex crimes, people on parole or probation for sex crimes, and people required to register as sex offenders as a result of a previous conviction, according to the FBI.
Authorities searched "potential traders" of child pornography who were identified through the use of advanced undercover techniques, said FBI spokesman Steve Dupre.
"It leaves these (suspects) guessing on what we're actually doing," Dupre said.
Investigators seized 30 computers, numerous digital cameras, cell phones, external hard-drives, thumb drives, CDs, DVDs and floppy disks. Dupre said more arrests are likely once the investigators analyze the evidence.
About 150 law enforcement officials carried out the sweep Tuesday and Wednesday in Stanislaus, San Joa- quin, Sacramento, El Dorado and Placer counties.
Marcus Hawkins, 32; Christopher Munson, 33; John Andrew Madsen, 47; and Scott Pringle, 38, were arrested on suspicion of violating parole in Stanislaus County, according to the FBI. They were being held without bail Thursday night at the Stanislaus County Jail.
Dupre said Peter Warner, Larry Enriquez, John Munroe, Carl Neal, Rawland Parks, Patrick Hall, Mark Crawford and Lonnie Brittson also were arrested during the sweep in Stanislaus County. There was no information available about their charges or their ages.
Parole, probation suspects
Dupre said most of the arrests were made on suspicion of parole and probation violations. That indicates the suspects had obscene material in their possession that broke the terms of their parole or probation.
He said the other people were arrested for other crimes including charges related to child exploitation.
Dupre said investigations will not be able to report whether they obtained sexual images of children until they further analyze some of the items they recovered.
Authorities conducted 169 searches during the sweep. Dupre said 29 searches were conducted in Stanislaus County, and most of the searches were done in the Modesto area.
The Stanislaus County Probation Department participated in the sweep. Chief Probation Officer Jerry Powers said law enforcement agencies dealing with budget constraints need to pool their resources to carry out such a large operation.
"The public has an expectation that we properly monitor offenders," Powers said. "I believe the citizens insist on it, especially with sex offenders. I don't think any one agency can do it alone."
Drew Parenti, special agent in charge of the FBI Sacramento office, said the agency is committed to working with local authorities to combat child pornography.
"Sexual exploitation of minors simply cannot be tolerated," Parenti said in a news release. "We as law enforcement must do everything we can to protect our nation's most vulnerable asset — our children."
Bee staff writer Rosalio Ahumada can be reached at email@example.com or 578-2394.