- The Washington Times - Monday, March 22, 2004

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents arrested 19 illegal aliens in Virginia and the District over the past several days who are sex offenders, part of a nationwide sweep of pedophiles known as “Operation Predator.”

Those arrested were foreign nationals previously convicted of sex crimes against children, including rape, statutory assault, aggravated sexual battery, sexual abuse and indecent liberties. Based on their prior convictions, they are subject to deportation pending a hearing before a U.S. immigration judge.

“Children are the most valuable and vulnerable members of our community. Through Operation Predator, we are systematically identifying and apprehending those who pose threats to our children,” said Kevin Delli-Colli of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, who heads the ICE office in the District.

“This operation would not have been possible without the assistance we received from the Virginia State Police and other law enforcement agencies,” he said.

Operation Predator is a nationwide ICE initiative aimed at protecting children from foreign sex offenders, child-sex tourists, Internet child pornographers, human traffickers and other predators.

In Virginia, ICE agents worked with state police to identify and apprehend 15 persons in Northern Virginia, as well as in Hampton, Hopewell, Norfolk, Richmond and Virginia Beach. ICE agents apprehended four persons in the District.

“Every time law enforcement takes a sexual predator off the street, one more child is ensured a safer future,” said Col. W. Steven Flaherty, Virginia State Police superintendent. “This is the first time the Virginia State Police has been involved in this nationwide operation, and the department welcomes the opportunity to join forces with ICE in an effort to better protect our communities and the people we serve.”

Those arrested included foreign nationals from Afghanistan, Bolivia, Cambodia, Cuba, El Salvador, France, Germany, Greece, Guyana, Indonesia, Jamaica, Nigeria, Peru, the Philippines and Vietnam.

ICE spokesman Michael Keegan said that since Operation Predator began in July, the agency has arrested more than 2,180 suspected child-sex predators nationwide. Targets of the operation include naturalized U.S. citizens convicted of sex crimes against children, as well as noncitizen sex offenders, whose crimes make them subject to removal from the United States.

Mr. Keegan said ICE has a toll-free number to report information about child-sex offenders, 866/DHS-2ICE, that is monitored 24 hours a day. ICE is the agency within the Department of Homeland Security charged as its investigative arm.

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