SUTTER COUNTY (CBS13) - A sex sting operation has landed nearly 40 men behind bars for attempted sex acts with a minor.
The operation began in February with the Sutter County District Attorney's office, but it included at least seven other agencies who assisted with the effort. Those agencies included West Sacramento Police, the Yolo District Attorney's office, Yuba City Police, Sutter County Sheriff's Office, Beale Air Force Base, the Yuba County and Sutter County Probation departments.
The operation was done over Facebook and through a Craigslist ads that suggested children were available for sex. Investigators say the internet has changed the way predators shop for their victims, and the sex sting proves how careful parents need to be in monitoring their kids activity online
"They're preying on the most vulnerable kids," says Jason Parker, the Chief Investigator with the Sutter County District Attorney's office.
Through a series of fake Facebook profiles set up by Parker and the team, the suspects thought they were chatting with a 14-year-old Yuba City girl or a 13-year-old boy.
"People think of sex predators as the guy who is hiding in his car watching the school grounds," Parker said. "While that's true now It's much easier to just sit at your computer and talk to multiple girls or boys."
The conversations in the sting operation started off friendly, many of the perpetrators asked the girl if she smokes marijuana, then it quickly escalated.
"They'd ask her about her sex life, then it would be followed by a picture of them exposing themselves to this girl - and then they would ask why don't you send me a picture and they'd be very explicit at times with what they wanted," Parker said.And with more and more social media apps, the threat is vast.
And with more and more social media apps, the threat is vast.
"It's really shocking to see how many children are sending naked pictures of themselves and receiving naked pictures of other people," said Amanda Hopper, Sutter County District Attorney.
One of the suspects caught back in May was Ivyn Rhyne, a Yuba City planning commissioner. More recently, Roberto Ledesma - a former teacher for the Yuba City Unified School District with prior history of sex crime arrests - was arrested.
After an intense investigation that spanned at least seven months, the DA's office has a strong warning for parents when it comes to their kids' social media.
"Parents are kind of clueless as to what's on their kids' phones. We talk about Facebook, but there are several other apps like Kik or Snapchat. You need to monitor it or I would recommend nothing at all," said Parker.
Deputy District Attorney, Adam McBride says "When I look at these 40 individuals, I think we've only scratched the surface of what we can do."
The suspects are being held at Sutter County Jail on a number of charges.
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