The international operation, dubbed Operation Sunflower, was undertaken by ICE’s Homeland Security Investigations division to rescue child victims and capture those who traffic in child pornography.
Of the 123 children, 44 victims were rescued from their abusers and 79 were identified as either being exploited by others outside of their home or are now adults. ICE released the findings Thursday.
On Nov. 15, special agents rescued three abused children, girls ages 2 and 6 and a 12-year-old boy. Authorities arrested Stephen Keating, 52, of Jesup. In September, cyber crime investigators received a referral from Interpol after Danish police discovered child abuse material depicting a man sexually abusing two young girls. On Nov. 14, investigators identified an Internet service connected to the Jesup residence and referred the case to special agents in Savannah. Jesup is located between Jacksonville, Fla. and Savannah.
The Jesup case was just one among several ICE highlighted Thursday. The federal agency also listed child pornography and sex abuse investigations in regions including Houston, Texas, Springfield, Ill., Detroit, Mich., San Francisco, Fresno, Calif., Clovis, Calif., and Columbus, Ohio.
Another case, out Myrtle Beach, S.C., led to the identification of a 6-year-old victim of child pornography and the arrest of Gerald Roberts, 51, of Pageland, S.C.
In Fresno, Calif., authorities arrested Samuel Gueydan, 48, of Clovis, for distribution and possession of child pornography. When investigators searched Gueydan’s home, they found 1.2 million still images and over 7,000 videos of child pornography, including images known to originate in Russia, Thailand and the Ukraine, according to ICE. The suspect also had hundreds of images of child pornography organized into books and catalogues.
Operation Sunflower began last November to mark the one-year anniversary of the an effort that saved an 11-year-old girl in a small Kansas town. In the investigation, the identification of a sunflower-shaped highway road sign led to the child's rescue.
A 16-year-old boy, who was planning to rape the girl, had solicited advice on a pedophile chat forum and posted images of her, according to ICE. Of those images, federal investigators noticed the Kansas road sign and tracked her down.