SALT LAKE CITY -- Funding from a children's foundation helped law enforcement agencies round up dozens of suspected child predators in Utah.
According to the Utah Attorney General's Office, tens of thousands of images and videos of child pornography were seized during a month-long internet child pornography crackdown called "Operation Frostbite."
Fourteen people were arrested and 25 others are still being investigated on suspicion of child sexual exploitation.
"One predator off the street could potentially affect dozens of children," said Rich Larsen, president and CEO of Operation Kids.
The month-long undercover operation in January resulted in six home search warrants and 10 computer search warrants being served in Salt Lake, Tooele, Davis and Utah counties.
Overall, agents seized 35 computers/external hard-drives, three cell phones and more than 100 CDs containing tens of thousands of illegal child pornography images and movies.
"We knew the greatest need here in this community had to do with online issues," Larsen said.
Larsen's Salt Lake-based children's foundation, Operation Kids, provided the funding for "Operation Frostbite."
Larsen said the foundation decided to donate $250,000 to the Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force after learning there was a backlog of internet child pornography cases in Utah and limited funding because of budget restraints.
"We've delivered benefit in all 50 states and in 30-plus countries now, but we never lose sight of the fact that we're based here and we live here and our families are raised here," Larsen said. "So yeah, there is always a connection and there is always a desire to do something special in this community."
Several of the individuals who were busted in the sting are accused of actively manufacturing child pornography.
According to the attorney general's office, the prosecution rate in Utah for sexual exploitation of a minor is one of the highest in the country.
The arrested suspects are identified as:
- Andre Del Toro, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- William Mattucci, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Antonio Cardenas, Federal Warrant
- Steven Mathena, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Timothy Ainsworth, Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- (Name withheld), 5 Counts Sexual Exploitation
- Shawn Johnson, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Adrian Marion, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Eduardo Sosa, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Howard Casey Calhoun, 4 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Mitchell Meronk, 10 Counts Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Ty Marsh, Ty Marsh, 10 counts Attempted Sexual Exploitation of a Minor
- Jeff Smith, Federal Warrant