17 Valley men arrested for child sex crimes in undercover investigation
PHOENIX — Seventeen Valley men were arrested for child sex crimes as the result of an undercover operation involving multiple agencies.
Mesa Police Department partnered with Tempe Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations and the Arizona Attorney General’s Office for the investigation, called Operation No Mulligans.
“It’s an undercover operation targeting the demand for child sex crimes and human trafficking,” Mesa Police Detective Nik Rasheta told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Wednesday.
Officers and undercover agents placed ads on websites that are common spots for sexual solicitation.
Once suspects answered the ads and made arrangements for sexual acts, they were arrested.
“In this case, all of the arrests are shocking. We do have operations that focus on the demand for sex crimes in general — prostitution, for example — but this one was specific for the child element,” Rasheta said.
“In the communication that undercover officers were having with the suspects, the underage portion was a factor in that communication. And it’s always troubling to see how many people are seeking specific sex acts with people who they think are underage.”
The 17 suspects face charges including attempted sexual conduct with a minor, luring and child sex trafficking.
They ranged in age from 23 to 46 years old and included a Glendale high school football coach and a Paradise Valley school worker.
“Every time an operation like this happens, you see the suspects can be from all parts of our society. You have people with contact with children from school, you have a whole range of different types of people that are seeking this type of activity,” Rasheta said.
“I think the big takeaway for a parent is to know what kind of relationships your children have with other adults. In general, we think it’s going to be the stranger and it’ll be this creepy type thing, when the fact is it’s almost always another adult that looks and sounds just like friends and family and is trusted.”
KTAR News 92.3 FM’s Taylor Kinnerup contributed to this report.