SALT LAKE CITY — Federal, state and local law enforcers teamed up during the NBA’s All-Star Game in Salt Lake City to crack down on online predators.
Twelve people were arrested over a 10-day period during an undercover sting called Operation Technical Foul that ran just before, during and after All-Star Weekend. The effort was headed up by the FBI’s Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force and targeted “people who use the internet to solicit and entice minors in our community,” according to the Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.
“The safety of our children is of paramount importance. Those who prey on and exploit our most vulnerable will be prosecuted to the full force of the law. This is a collaborative effort to keep our community safe. I appreciate the time that was dedicated to this operation during the All-Star Weekend. When many in Salt Lake County were enjoying the events for the All-Star Weekend, others took this as an opportunity to violate the law,” said Salt Lake County District Attorney Sim Gill.
Many of those arrested have been charged in Utah’s 3rd District Court with crimes such as sexual solicitation of a child, enticing a minor and criminal solicitation.
Undercover agents would either pose as children on online dating and social media apps, or would pose as adults offering their children to predators for a fee, according to court documents. One man who allegedly arranged to have sex with a 7-year-old girl acknowledged after he was arrested that he “did something really stupid” and it was the first time he had tried something like that, according to charging documents.
Another man, a long-haul truck driver from Taylorsville, was arrested after allegedly arranging to have sex with a 7-year-old boy and sending child pornography to the undercover agent, charging documents state.
“You get all sorts of people from all backgrounds. That makes the work so critical because you can’t say there’s one particular type (of predator),” said Gill.
He said that people from other counties and even states will travel to Salt Lake City to engage in what they believe will be sex with a child. That’s why when events such as the All-Star Game happen, attracting large amounts of people, Gill says law enforcement wants to be proactive in trying to prevent abuse from happening.
“People are constantly trolling for children,” he said.
Gill emphasized that without the collaboration between local, state and federal law enforcement partners, efforts such as Operation Technical Foul wouldn’t be nearly as successful. Each relies on the talents and resources of the other, he said.
But Gill also says parents play an important role in protecting children. Operations like these serve as a way to educate parents that predators are out there, he said, and as a reminder for parents to monitor their child’s phone and online activity.
Operation Technical Foul included agents from the FBI, Utah State Bureau of Investigation, Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office, Davis County Attorney’s Office, Davis County Sheriff’s Office, South Jordan Police Department, Unified Police Department, Tooele Police Department, Clearfield Police Department, Utah State University Police, the Missoula County, Montana, Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations.