From left: William Norn, 68, of Calgary, an air force pilot, and Troy Millington, 45, of Calgary, a former Alberta Party candidate, are among 10 Alberta men charged in a child exploitation investigation.
A former Alberta Party candidate, an air force pilot and an accounts manager are among five Calgarians charged in a lengthy child exploitation investigation.
In total, 10 men from southern Alberta were arrested and charged in Operation Ice Storm 3, an eight-month investigation by ALERT’s Internet Child Exploitation or ICE team, which is made up of officers from Calgary, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat and the RCMP.
ICE investigates offences involving child pornography, computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the Internet, voyeurism involving underage victims and child sex trade/tourism.
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This particular operation, currently in its third iteration, focused on child sexual-abuse images and videos being traded on peer-to-peer file sharing networks and targeted high-volume traders, said Det. Justin Brookes, one of the primary investigators.
He noted these 10 individuals represent only “a fraction” of the offenders operating in this province.
“Every day, thousands of child sexual-abuse images and videos are being traded, viewed, downloaded all across the province,” Brookes told reporters Wednesday. “Simply put, we cannot arrest everyone at once. Instead, Ice Storm 3 targeted the suspects with the largest collections and some of the most graphic content.”
Det. Justin Brookes (L) speaks to media as Sheldon Kennedy (R) listens during a press conference in Calgary, Alta at Police headquarters on Wednesday June 29, 2016. Operation ICE Storm 3 has led to the arrest of 10 child sexual exploitation suspects. ALERT's Internet Child Exploitation team made the arrests in Calgary, Medicine Hat, and Lethbridge. JIM WELLS / POSTMEDIA
Over the past eight months, investigators executed 30 search warrants across southern Alberta and seized 285 computers, mobile devices and storage drives.
So far, only about half of the devices have undergone forensic analysis, but investigators have already discovered more than 40 terabytes of data containing more than 50,000 individual videos and images depicting child pornography and child sexual exploitation.
“Some of the victims in the images and the videos are estimated to be as young as six months and depict extreme sexual violence,” Brookes said.
At this point, none of the victims identified in the images are believed to be from Alberta, “but we would be naive to believe it’s not taking place in our own backyards,” he added.
Sheldon Kennedy, director of the Sheldon Kennedy Child Advocacy Centre and former NHL star-turned child-rights advocate, said his centre sees about 125 cases a month involving mainly children between the ages of four and seven.
Many of them either present or are at risk of depression, addiction, self-harm or sexualized behaviour. In addition, the centre’s two full-time mental-health clinicians are at capacity dealing with children who have suicidal thoughts.
Kennedy said a big problem is that there are still many people who don’t make the connection between images of child pornography and sexual abuse, and that more education and understanding is needed.
“It’s not just an image . . . We see the people, we see the kids that have been hurt,” he said.
The following people were arrested and face charges of possession of child pornography, accessing child pornography and making child pornography available:
Troy Millington, 45, of Calgary, a former Alberta Party candidate
William Norn, 68, of Calgary, an air force pilot
Robert Rogers, 42, of Lethbridge
Robert Thompson, 33, of Calgary
John Tulloch, 25, of Lethbridge
Stefan Mogck, 35, of Medicine Hat
Michael Henderson, 68, of Medicine Hat
Gabriel Pereira, 42, of Calgary, an accounts manager
Victor Rahal, 52, of Medicine Hat
Oscar Asensio, 41, of Calgary
Brookes said none of the accused men are considered to be in positions of public trust or authority.
In the first Operation Ice Storm launched in April 2014, 10 people were arrested. The second operation last year netted eight arrests.
Advancements in technology and the sheer volume of data police must sift through present challenges for investigators. But Brookes said the ICE team will keep launching Operation Ice Storm investigations as long as there is a need.
He stressed the importance, collectively as a society, to protect our children and to let kids know it’s OK to talk about abuse and speak up. He also urged anyone with information on child online sexual exploitation to report it.
“Your information could save a child.”