U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Director John Morton (R) speaks as National Center for Missing & Exploited Children (NCMEC) CEO John Ryan (L) listens as ICE announces 123 victims of child sexual exploitation were identified during Operation Sunflower with 44 children directly rescued from their abusers.
A Chula Vista elementary school teacher, recently arrested and charged with molestation and child pornography, was among dozens arrested in a nationwide child pornography investigation officials announced Thursday.
John Kinloch, 41, a first grade teacher at Wolf Canyon Elementary School, currently faces 20 felony charges involving minors. One charge is for attempted molestation on a child younger than 14, and another includes possession of child pornography officials revealed last month.
On Thursday, federal investigators announced Kinloch was one of seven men arrested in San Diego County as a part of Operation Sunflower, a child predator sweep launched by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) two months ago.
HSI arrested 245 suspects in the investigation that involved close to 20 states and even reached outside of U.S. borders. Agents along with partner agencies identified 110 victims of sexual predators. Of the victims identified, five were under the age of 3, and one of those was just 19 days old NBC News reported.
Lorraine Concha, Special-Agent-in-Charge with the San Diego HSI office, said it's the horrendous nature of the crime that drives investigators to hunt down their perpetrators.
"So it's of utmost importance to us to be able to rescue these children and by rescuing these children, be able to make these arrests," Concha said.
The local defendants in custody range in age from 25 to 57 and include an airline pilot and a bartender according to federal prosecutors.
Richard White, an employee for Solar Turbines, faces charges of distributing and possessing child porn.
Zachary Wilson, of Oceanside, is accused of possessing child porn images on a computer hard drive.
Justin Christy is accused of distributing child porn. Stephen Burda is accused of receiving and possessing child pornography.
Robert Mckany is an airline pilot who worked for Republic Airlines which operates as Frontier, US Airways Express, Delta Connection and United Express. Prosecutors say Mckany is accused of receiving digital images of child pornography.
Kenneth Lee Wilson faces two counts including possession of child porn and failure to register as a sex offender. He has two previous child porn convictions – one in 1999 in Pennsylvania and another in Potter County, Texas in 2005.
Federal agents are still searching for two suspects whose images are included in wanted posters under the names “John Doe” and “Jane Doe.” The photos (pictured left) are posted on the ICE Facebook page in the hopes someone will identify them and alert authorities as to the suspects' names or location.
The couple is believed to be in Los Angeles but investigators say there is a possibility they may have been seen in San Diego.
"We are next to a border. It always makes for a potential quick run out the country, unfortunately," said Concha.
HSI encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form.