NEW YORK -- 51 arrests have been made in a sting operation covering three Texas counties in relation to online child sex crime.
Officers from the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force posed as underage children online for the sting, dubbed Operation “Broken Heart,” which took place over several months in Montgomery, Fort Bend and Harris counties, according to ABC 13. Among those arrested were public employees.
The authorities briefed reporters on the sting operation, and revealed details about some of the individual cases.
"A suspect traveled all the way from California here to Houston, where he met his victim and sexually assaulted her," Sgt. Luis Menedez-Sierra told reporters, describing one of the alleged crimes. “This is not a local crime, this is not something just related to your next door neighbor, or one town away. This is a nationwide issue.”
Officers said that the majority of the arrests involved adults grooming children online, or undercover officers posing as children.
Describing the case of Christopher Lakner, 26, Harris County Precinct 1 Constable Alan Rosen said that "during chats, he tried to convince undercover personnel he thought was a teenage girl to help kidnap children from area parks, breed them to make babies."
Lackner was arrested at the location where he is alleged to have arranged a meeting with the undercover officer. He was arrested in April and is still in custody.
Brian Roberts, Lackner's attorney, told ABC News that he had still not received evidence from the state.
"But more importantly the comments that Constable Rosen made exceeded widely what is appropriate for a law enforcement officer to say publicly," Roberts said. "The statement that he made is not public information, and so he has a duty not to disclose it. More importantly those statements are a violation of my client’s constitutional and civil rights. They may deprive him of his right to a fair trial."
"The Harris County District Attorney’s Office has done nothing to curb the rash of incendiary public statements by local law enforcement officials, which violate the rights of defendants whose cases are still pending trial," the defense attorney continued. "This is an example of a public official furthering his political ambitions on the back of my client and it cannot continue unaddressed and without potential legal sanctions."
Operation “Broken Heart” is the code name for a nationwide operation to tackle child sex abuse. The operation targets suspects who deal in child pornography, groom children online, engage in sex trafficking or travel to foreign countries to abuse children, according to the Department of Justice.
The sting is the latest series of arrests meted out by ICAC task forces during Operation “Broken Heart.” Last year, the Department of Justice announced that more than 2,300 arrests had been made nationwide between the months of March and May 2018 as part of the operation.