Officials: 250 child predators arrested, 4 in Charleston

Photo from Operation iGuardian (Courtesy: ICE)

CHARLESTON, S.C. - Officials with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement have announced the success of a large operation meant to snare predators on the world wide web.ICE officials say 255 child predators were arrested and 61 victims of child sexual exploitation identified during a five-week operation conducted by ICE, Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces across the country.Officials say four of those arrests were in the Charleston area with charges ranging from possession to distribution of child pornography. They included a retired Citadel professor and a convicted sex offender from Johns Island.

According to court documents, Richard Pokryfka, a former business administration professor at The Citadel, was charged with three counts of second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for allegedly distributing sexually explicit images of underage children and one count of third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor for possessing illegal images.

A Charleston County incident report shows deputies assisted Homeland Security and ICE agents in executing a search warrant at Pokryfka's Palmer Creek Bend home. A Charleston County detective said Pokryfka's charges are a part of a federal case with homeland security and ICE, calling it "just the tip of the iceberg."Operation iGuardian, which ran May 28 to June 30, was conducted as part of HSI's Operation Predator to identify and rescue victims of online sexual exploitation and to arrest their abusers as well as others who own, trade and produce images of child pornography."HSI and the South ICAC work closely together to ensure our children are protected from pedophiles and other online predators," said Charleston Resident Agent in Charge Patrick McDavid. "We are taking the fight to those who seek to sexually exploit the most innocent members of our communities, and we are winning that fight."According to investigators, a "disturbing trend" is emerging in which child predators are increasingly using the Internet to lure children to produce and share sexually explicit material online. Nationally, during Operation iGuardian, HSI and ICAC investigators said they found child predators chatting online with minors about sex, sending them obscene pictures, encouraging them to take nude photos and videos, and attempting to meet them in person. The release also listed the following facts.

  • Of the 61 victims identified during Operation iGuardian: four were under the age of 3, five were ages 4 to 6; 13 were ages 7 to 9; 10 were ages 10 to 12; 23 were ages 13 to 15; and 6 were ages 16 to 17. Forty-two were female and 19 were male.
  • Twenty-four of the 61 victims identified during the Operation iGuardian were engaging online with strangers who exploited them. Their ages ranged from 7 to 17, the majority aged 13 to 15 years old.{}{}
  • In fiscal year 2013 to date, 1,660 child predators have been arrested by HSI on criminal charges related to the online sexual exploitation of children. In 2012, 1,655 child predators were arrested, 1,335 were arrested in 2011, and 912 were arrested in 2010. Since 2003, HSI has initiated more than 29,000 cases and arrested more than 10,000 individuals for these types of crimes.

HSI asks the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, via its toll-free 24-hour hotline, 1-800-THE-LOST.