— Photo by Rhonda Hayward/The Telegram
A police investigation involving online predators suspected of exploiting children in Atlantic Canada has resulted in the arrest of nine residents of Newfoundland and Labrador and ensured the safety of a child in the province.
The suspects arrested in Newfoundland and Lab-rador are all men, with ages ranging from 22 to 55. The arrests were part of Operation Snapshot II, an investigation covering the entire region of Atlantic Canada. Twenty-two arrests were made altogether, resulting in a total of 64 charges that have either been laid or are pending.
Insp. Jeff Thompson of the RCMP said the child in Newfoundland and Labrador is safe through the execution of a search warrant.
“There wasn’t a physical apprehension of a child, but the action that we took jointly saved that child from being exploited,” he said.
The names of three of the accused have not been released — a 31-year-old from St. John’s, a
55-year-old from Gander, and a 34-year-old from Baine Harbour. In some cases, this is to protect the identity of a victim, according to police.
The remaining six men arrested are Declan Chaisson, 43, of Mainland; Theodore Alexander Lush, 25, of Triton; Richard Moore, 46, of Harbour Breton; Kyle Clarke, 27, of Gull Island; Robert David Butler, 22, of St. John’s; and Kenneth Harry Bradbury, 26, of St. John’s. Bradbury and Moore were not charged as of Wednesday afternoon.
Charges laid or pending for the nine men range from possession of child pornography to accessing child pornography.
The 55-year-old man from Gander is also charged with making child pornography and eight counts of voyeurism. Six of the accused are suspected of making child pornography available.
Across the region, four victims of voyeurism were identified by police.
Thompson outlined two key priorities for its joint investigation with the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, which began in April. One was to identify high-risk offenders making child pornography available, while the other was to remove victims from harm.
“Because of the teamwork between the RCMP and RNC, Operation Snapshot II has been a success,” said Thompson.
RNC Deputy Chief Bill Janes called the online sexual exploitation of children “a borderless crime,” adding that inter-provincial co-operation has proven to be the best tool for investigating such matters.
“For each offender that is caught, we save dozens of potential victims and send a strong message to discourage the proliferation of this type of material online.”
Authorities seized 43 computers, 72 external drives and 3,000 DVDs and CDs through the course of the investigation, executing 23 warrants across Atlantic Canada.
Thompson confirmed that the materials seized contain graphic images.
“These are child sexual abuse images,” he said, adding the items seized will play a big role in the ongoing investigation.
The Canadian Police Centre for Missing and Exploited Children was the lead agency for co-ordinating investigative efforts, according to Thompson.
The original Operation Snapshot took place last year and focused on Western Canada.
In March, the province announced plans to form a joint RNC-RCMP unit with annual funding of $1 million. Janes said that unit is still at the development stage, but he did add that the same officers who worked on Operation Snapshot II will form part of the new joint-forces unit.
“I think this is the type of success that we’ll see in the future when we do formalize this partnership,” he said.
Some of the accused in the case have been released. Thompson noted that conditions are in place to make sure that they do not come in contact with children.
“These people are identified certainly to the police,” he said.
Butler is due to appear in St. John’s provincial court July 26. Lush is scheduled to appear in Grand Falls-Windsor provincial court
Aug. 26. Clarke will be in Harbour Grace provincial court Sept. 4. Chaisson is due in Stephenville provincial court Sept. 23.
— With files from Rosie Gillingham