Edmonton/Calgary, Alberta – ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit has arrested 18 suspects from across Alberta for offences related to online child sexual exploitation.
Between May 20 and June 23, 2020, ICE has charged 18 suspects with 65 offences. Most of the arrests came as the result of investigative referrals from the RCMP’s National Child Exploitation Coordination Centre, which works with internet and social media providers to track and investigate online instances of child sexual exploitation.
“Online child exploitation victimizes our most vulnerable and is a crime against an entire society that’s built around nurturing our children and keeping them safe,” said Hon. Doug Schweitzer, Minister of Justice and Solicitor General. “Identifying and arresting the perpetrators who prey on children is complex and challenging work, and I commend the investigators of ALERT’s ICE unit for their tireless dedication to this grim, but absolutely necessary, duty.”
ICE previously reported a record number of intakes in March 2020. ICE received 243 reported instances of online child exploitation in Alberta that month, far exceeding the unit’s two-year average of roughly 110.
“This is a level of activity that has been unparalleled in the existence of the ICE unit,” said Supt. Dwayne Lakusta, ALERT CEO. “ICE is working incredibly hard to put predators behind bars, but we need parents to do their part and be vigilant of their kids’ online activities.”
There is no definitive link between the suspects other than the nature of offences allegedly committed. Each of the suspects was charged with at least one child pornography offence:
An 18-year-old man from Edmonton, who was a young offender at the time of his arrest;
Bryan Alas Hernandez, an 18-year-old man from Lethbridge;
Dean Bertsch, a 62-year-old man from Sherwood Park;
Brandon Bran Eguizabal, a 26-year-old man from Lethbridge;
Tyson Campbell, a 27-year-old man from Edmonton;
Evan Cardinal, a 31-year-old man from Frog Lake;
Yonatan Castro Linares, a 25-year-old man from Lethbridge;
Keone Friesen, a 21-year-old man from Calgary;
Hans-Ulrich Gerber, a 74-year-old man from Red Deer;
Travis Harder, a 31-year-old man from Sherwood Park;
Kristofer Hastings, a 28-year-old man from Edmonton;
Darcy Hazard, a 57-year-old man from Airdrie;
Anas Khatib, a 24-year-old man from Grande Prairie;
Wayne Kupsch, a 52-year-old man from Edmonton;
Richard McCleary, a 61-year-old man from Calgary;
George Power, a 45-year-old man from Calgary;
James Venance, a 63-year-old man from Edmonton; and
Jesse Young, a 20-year-old man from Grande Prairie.
ICE is an integrated team that includes members of Calgary Police, Edmonton Police, Lethbridge Police, Medicine Hat Police, and RCMP. ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, any computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism.
ICE speculates that the rise in the number of investigative referrals is likely in part related to digital dependency during COVID-19 isolation measures.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has information on its site dedicated to supporting families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources for families and caregivers; schools and educators; and child-serving organizations. This information is available at: https://protectchildren.ca/en/resources-research/supporting-you-through-covid-19/
ALERT was established and is funded by the Alberta Government and is a compilation of the province’s most sophisticated law enforcement resources committed to tackling serious and organized crime.
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