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Plan to Protect Kids Marks 5,000th Arrest

March 3, 2005

WASHINGTON (AP) _ Operation Predator, an international initiative to combat crimes against children, has resulted in more than 5,000 arrests since it began in 2003, officials said Thursday.

People in every state have been arrested under the initiative, with the most arrests in California (1,317), Texas (448), New Jersey (369) and New York (317).

Operation Predator began in July 2003 with the goal of cracking down on crimes against children. It targets foreign national sex offenders, human traffickers, international sex tourists and child pornographers. The Homeland Security Department’s Bureau of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is in charge of the operation.

The 5,000th arrest was made July 2, 2004, in the Cleveland, Ohio, suburb of Solon. Mikhail Kleyman was arrested for fondling a mentally handicapped 13-year-old girl at a community pool. He pleaded guilty in November to several charges and received two years probation. Kleyman, a 68-year-old Ukrainian, is in federal custody in Louisiana awaiting deportation.

Michael J. Garcia, the immigration bureau’s director, called Kleyman’s arrest ``a sobering milestone in our effort to protect children from those who would rob them of their innocence.″

``Whether the criminal is a U.S. citizen who thinks they can travel overseas to molest children, a pornographer who trades in images of child sexual abuse or a foreign national who has lost the privilege to remain in the United States because of a crime against a child, ICE will identify, arrest and, where possible, remove them,″ Garcia said.

More than 85 percent of those arrested have been foreign national sex offenders, Garcia said. To date, more than 2,100 of those arrested have been deported.

One high-profile case occurred two months after Operation Predator began when a federal grand jury in Seattle charged Michael Lewis Clark with child sex tourism violations of the Protect Act, which makes it a crime for U.S. citizens to travel abroad to have sex with children. The case was the first child sex tourism case in the United States brought under the Protect Act. Last year, Clark pleaded guilty to engaging in and attempting to engage in illicit sexual conduct with minors in foreign places _ he had been arrested in Cambodia in 2003 for engaging in illegal sexual activity with two boys, age 10 and 13. He was sentenced to 97 months in jail.


On the Net:

U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement: http://www.ice.gov

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