Over the years, ICE has seized millions of dollars in harmful item, arrested thousands of predators and saved countless numbers innocent children. But federal authorities are growing more concerned with the speed of which online enticement and sextortion is occurring.
In the past five weeks alone, agents have arrested 255 child predators and identified 61 young victims. Maryland state police served 12 search warrants.
"Four (cases) are involving the sexual exploitation of minors, one with a 13 year old girl he met online," says Col. Marcus Brown with the Maryland State Police.
“Far too many children are abused by online predators and then repeatedly reabused by online photographs and videos of their online exploits,” says John Morton, the director of ICE.
The international joint task force known as Operation iGuardian is seeing a disturbing trend: Child predators are not only turning more and more to the internet for their heinous crimes, but sexually extorting minors to produce graphic images and videos.
"Blackmail are the tricks, leaving children with nowhere to turn," says Morton.
Even with the agency's cybercrime center and more than 7,000 agents, officials admit it is a war they are losing. Twenty-four of the latest victims were engaging online with strangers who sexually exploited them. Ages ranging from 7-17, more than half girls.
Of the more than five dozen victims, four of them were under 3-years-old and as part of this international sting operation, nine predators were arrested here in the D.C. area. Five of them in Maryland alone.