Saturday, December 5, 2009
I was in my office one crisp day in December of last year when I received an urgent call from an attorney located in Saipan. A young boy had been kidnapped by force from his mother in China by his biological father the previous year. Prior efforts to locate father and son had been unsuccessful and Song Lee was hysterical as she anticipated another Christmas without her son. The attorney informed me that even though the mother had a court order giving her custody of her 7-year old son and ordering that the child be returned to her in China, California authorities had been slow to act. In the meantime, the attorney related to me that he had been receiving daily calls from the mother requesting an update on the recovery of her son. As the attorney felt ineffective in his ability to provide the requested information, he was forced to advise her to be patient.
This attorney then told me that he had found my investigations agency website and was impressed with the results I had achieved in other child recovery cases. He recommended to the mother that she retains me to locate her son. Emotionally charged and hopeful of an imminent reunion with her son, she agreed and I was retained. Enlisting the services of another investigator, I was able to locate the father in San Diego through information obtained regarding a friend of the father. We conducted surveillance on the friend’s residence and were able to locate the father and then elementary school where the boy had been enrolled. I contacted the local District Attorney to advise him of our efforts to recover the boy and to enlist in his help, should it become necessary. He agreed to assist us and asked that I keep him informed as to our progress.
Finally, we moved into position at the boy’s elementary school just as the children were being excused for the day. We located the father in his car and the boy as he was leaving the school campus. With the help of a fellow investigator, stopped the car and refused to let the father leave with the boy from the school premises. The local law enforcement arrived to provide support and assistance, if necessary. The father was emotionally charged and fairly hostile, refusing to give the boy up. I laid out for him his options: either he returns the boy to the mother voluntarily or the boy would go with Child Protective Services for weeks while he was arrested and taken to jail to wait for a court date. Eventually, the father agreed it was best that the boy be returned to his mother and released him into our care.
When it was time for the mother to be reunited with her son at the school, there was not a dry eye among those of us who had participated in his recovery. What a present: a mother reunited with the boy after a year of disappearance and a boy reunited with his mother just in time for Christmas.
Monday, February 23, 2009
By Janice SextonSoroptimist International of WindsorWindsorEDITOR: Nathan Halverson’s coverage of the Human Trafficking Awareness Forum (“Working to stop sexual slavery,” Empire News, Monday) missed some very important details. The forum was the brainchild of Monique Lessan, a member of Santa Rosa Soroptimists and a licensed private investigator specializing in recovery of abducted children and runaways, who worked tirelessly to organize, publicize and moderate this important event. The event was wholly underwritten and supported by Soroptimist clubs in Sonoma, Marin and Mendocino counties; Soroptimist International is a service organization whose mission is to improve the lives of women and girls. A key panel member not mentioned in the article was Homeland Security Supervisory Special Agent Maurice Wrighten, with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), who was attending to bring awareness to Sonoma County parents on this crucial issue. And lastly, our attendance count was closer to 150, not the 75 mentioned in the article. While we would have liked to have had a larger audience, we are grateful for the numbers of members of the public who did spend 3 hours of a Sunday afternoon participating and listening. We invite anyone interested in fighting the “dirty little secret” in our community to contact the Sonoma County Commission on Human Rights at (707) 565-2693.Janice SextonSoroptimist International of WindsorWindsor
Monday, February 16, 2009
What started as a tip from Australian authorities in 2006 regarding a sexually explicit video has turned into one of the largest global child pornography investigations on record—and a model for how law enforcement cooperation can cast a powerful light into the darkest reaches of the Internet to bring child predators to justice.
Operation Joint Hammer has resulted in the rescue of 14 girls—some as young as 3 years old—who were being sexually abused by pornographers. Approximately 170 people have been arrested, more than 60 of them U.S. citizens. Seven major child pornography rings, hosting the worst of the worst, have been dismantled. And the investigation is far from complete.
Working with international law enforcement organizations, members of our Innocent Images National Initiative program are playing a key role in the operation, along with the Department of Justice (DOJ), the United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS), and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).
Here is what happened: Authorities in Queensland, Australia came across a pornographic video online showing a young victim. This victim was determined to be Dutch with a Flemish accent. Authorities in Belgium were contacted, and the ensuing European investigation became known as Operation Koala.
Belgian police identified and arrested the molester, who provided information about the video’s producer, an Italian national who ran a pornographic website. When Italian police arrested the producer and shut down his website, they retrieved 50,000 e-mails to the porn site. Those e-mails formed the basis of Operation Joint Hammer. They were routed by Europol to the 28 countries from which they originated—with more than 11,000 coming from the United States.
The Innocent Images Operations Unit, along with our U.S. partners, quickly got to work. From the U.S. e-mails, about 700 became workable investigative leads. These were divided between the FBI, USPIS, and ICE. DOJ’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, responsible for prosecuting the federal cases, also played a critical role. As the investigation proceeded, many of our state and local law enforcement partners participated, conducting searches and making arrests.
The investigation is ongoing, but already dangerous sexual predators have been stopped:
A New Jersey man pled guilty to producing sexual images of his 9-year-old daughter. Evidence seized during the search of his home revealed that he had nearly 130,000 images of child pornography. He was sentenced to almost 20 years in prison.
An Arizona fifth-grade schoolteacher was a customer of the Italian pornography website. A search of his home resulted in allegations of sexual contact with female students at his school. He faces multiple charges of sexual exploitation of children.
A convicted sex offender from Philadelphia who spent 15 years in prison for molesting children was charged with advertising, distributing, and receiving child pornography. Evidence indicates that he administered two major global online child pornography bulletin boards.
So far, the FBI and our U.S. partners have conducted more than 250 searches as part of the operation. “We’re still working our way through all the cases,” said our agent in charge of the investigation.
“Cooperation is the key,” the agent added. “During our regular meetings with postal inspectors, ICE, and DOJ, we do whatever needs to be done as a team to make sure the cases keep moving forward.”
Tuesday, February 10, 2009
Human Trafficking in the Bay AreaJanuary 11th is National Human Trafficking and Modern Day SlaveryAwareness Day Human Trafficking is modern‐day slavery.The victims are among the most vulnerable members of society.It is estimated that 70% of trafficked victims are women and children who are forced into hard labor and sexual slavery. The US Government estimates that 700,000 to 2 million women and children are trafficked across borders each year to be used as illegal labor or sex workers.California is the top destination for human traffickers according to a report released by the state’s anti‐human trafficking task force. According to task force members, the problem goes far beyond the sex trade and extends to migrant farm and construction workers, household employees, and workers in motels and restaurants.The report’s findings, along with acknowledgements by Sonoma County Officials, convincingly show that Human Trafficking is present in our communities here in theNorth Bay!On Sunday January 11th, 2009, Soroptimist International clubs in Sonoma, Marin, and Mendocino counties have brought awareness of this issue to citizens and agencies in the North Bay. This event was a continuation of a coordinated movement toward prevention of Human Trafficking.The PBS Documentary “Sex Slaves” was featured followed by a panel discussion with lawenforcement agencies and local organizations who are currently fighting the battle against Human Trafficking. The panel discussion was moderated by Monique Lessan, a state licensed Private Investigator, owner of Eye Investigate, specializing in recovery of abducted children and runaways.
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Letter to the Editor: Panel addresses 'dirty littl...
Working to stop sex slavery
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Soroptimist International of Santa Rosa
The Mission of Soroptimist International is to improve the lives of Women and Girls in local communities and throughout the world. View my complete profile