Multiple law enforcement agencies came together for a three-month investigation called Operation Broken Heart, which resulted in 60 arrests and 152 charges across eight southeast Texas counties for numerous Internet crimes against children.
“This is a bittersweet moment we have every year,” said Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo at a press conference held at the Children’s Assessment Center (CAC) following the arrests Tuesday.
“It’s bittersweet because we have to have investigators investigating crimes most people would deem unthinkable. Operation Broken Heart brings relief to children in our communities who are being victimized.”
Operation Broken Heart is part of the U.S. Department of Justice’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, a 90-day collaboration of 65 different law enforcement agencies that target online predators who produce, distribute, and/or possess child pornography, and solicit or commit child sexual abuse. The Houston Metro ICAC Task Force led this sweep.
Acevedo said the operation involved 255 investigations which led to the 60 arrests as well and the recovery of thousands of gigabytes of child pornography and sexually explicit images. He said 14 child victims were identified through graphic materials. Acevedo divulged that at least one of the suspects in custody was a woman, two were former area police, and one was an ex-public school teacher.
The police chief elaborated, explaining that former Harris County Sheriff’s Office Deputy Donald Dehnert, 46, faces five counts of possession of child pornography. While under interrogation, Dehnert admitted to police he wanted to meet a young female victim while armed with an AR-15 so he could sexually assault and rob the girl.
“That’s how sick these people are,” noted Acevedo.
A former Houston police sergeant, Stephen McGee, was charged with five counts of possession of child erotica, according to Acevedo. In March, police arrrested McGee, 44, for stalking his ex-girlfriend, posting nude photos of her on a fake Facebook account in an alleged “revenge porn” case, according to the Houston Chronicle. McGee left the Houston Police Department in 2016.
ICAC officials also nabbed Joshua Janecka, who up until recently was an elementary school music teacher in the Dayton Independent School District. In April, KTRK reported he was charged with possession and promotion of child pornography.
“Most important to me is getting these criminals, these victimizers off of our streets and bringing them to justice,” stated Acevedo, who encouraged parents to be “vigilant” and keep a watchful eye on their children’s online activities.
“This is a crime that does not discriminate. These suspects don’t care if you’re white or black, rich or poor, male or female,” said the police chief. “The suspects that do this look like you and I. They can be your neighbor, they can be your preacher, they can be a person of faith. Please be vigilant and most importantly, please report any outcry.”
In 2014, the Texas Department of Public Safety established the Texas Crimes Against Children Center within the investigative division of the Texas Rangers. In 2003, the state’s Office of the Attorney General launched the Child Exploitation Unit (CEU) in response to growing incidents of online child predators and pornography. The AG’s CEU is one of three ICAC-affiliated task forces in Texas. The other two are the Houston and Dallas police departments.
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