A multiagency undercover law enforcement operation led to the arrests earlier this month of three service members at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam who allegedly solicited sex from federal agents posing online as minors, officials said Friday.
The three individuals, aged 22, 26, and 31, were detained at the Oahu base where they allegedly intended to meet federal agents who posed as teenagers aged 13 to 15 from April 2 to 4, said Jeff Houston, a spokesman for the Naval Criminal Investigation Service.
“We cannot divulge the social media platforms used in this operation, although we can say that NCIS and its partners use various social media and dating platforms during such operations,” Houston said.
The service members also sent explicit photographs of themselves and allegedly asked for explicit photographs in return, the Honolulu office of Homeland Security Investigations said in a separate press release.
The sting was part of Operation Keiki Shield, which was launched by the Hawaii Department of the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Investigators from all branches of the military as well as the Honolulu office of Homeland Security Investigations collaborated on the most recent sting operations.
According to the NCIS, military and civilian law enforcement have conducted four undercover operations under the auspices of Keiki Shield resulting in 24 arrests and 16 convictions since 2019. Multiple investigations are pending prosecution.
“Crimes against children are the worst of the worst,” John Tobon, special agent in charge of HSI Honolulu, said in his office’s press release. “HSI is committed to providing the necessary resources in cooperation with our partner agencies to catch these predators and most importantly to help the victims.”
According to NCIS, each sting included the participation of between 40 and 55 law enforcement personnel, including special agents, intelligence analysts and administrative staff. The Homeland Security Investigations office provided victim advocates and a forensic interviewer.
“The Hawaii Department of the Attorney General and its Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force are committed to working with our military, federal, and local partners to protect one of our most vulnerable populations — Hawaii’s children — from being preyed upon by online predators,” Hawaii Attorney General Clare Connors said in the NCIS press release.
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Kevin Knodell reported on the military and veterans for Civil Beat as a corps member for Report For America, a national nonprofit that places journalists in local newsrooms to cover underreported topics.