News Local

80 people face charges across Ontario, including five Simcoe County residents

Bob Bruton

By Bob Bruton, Barrie Examiner

Representatives from numerous police agencies, at a news conference in Toronto to announce the arrests of 80 people involved in a child-porn probe.
OPP SGT. KERRY SCHMIDT TWITTER PHOTO

Representatives from numerous police agencies, at a news conference in Toronto to announce the arrests of 80 people involved in a child-porn probe. OPP SGT. KERRY SCHMIDT TWITTER PHOTO

OPP have arrested 80 people in connection with a massive investigation involving online child exploitation – including two from Barrie, one from Orillia, Innisfil and Collingwood.

A total of 174 search warrants were executed across Ontario during the past two days, resulting in 274 charges.

They include sexual assault, possession of child pornography, making available child pornography, distribution of child pornography, making child pornography, and accessing child pornography.

Charges were laid following a co-ordinated investigation involving the provincial strategy to protect children from sexual abuse and exploitation on the Internet.

“It's one of the largest we've done in the history of the strategy being in place,” said OPP Sgt. Peter Leon

In addition, 20 victims were identified during the investigations and referred to appropriate community-based resources for assistance.

Drug and weapons-related charges were also laid.

Recognizing similarities with human trafficking investigations during this probe, police were also able to ensure the safety of nine people who had been working in the sex trade as a minor or against their will, including 14, 15, and 16-year-olds.

“The most fundamental responsibility of any society is to protect its children,” said Chief Superintendent Don Bell, commander of the OPP investigation and support bureau . “Every child has the right to be nurtured and the right to be safe.”

At this point police don't believe any of the victims or those rescued from being forcibly engaged in the sex trade are from Simcoe County – although that could change as the investigation continues.

John Strapco, 52, of  Barrie, is charged with two counts of possessing child pornography, while another Barrie resident, age 28, is charged with making sexually explicit material available to a child and luring a person under 18. OPP did not release this suspect's name.

Gary Bowman, 37, of Orillia, is charged with possession of child pornography and accessing child pornography.

Ronald Scott Woodland, 44, of Innisfil,  is charged with making child pornography available: he was arrested Tuesday morning at his Innisfil home by South Simcoe police.

Sean Cripps, 43, of Collingwood,  is charged with possession of child pornography, accessing child pornography and making child pornography available.

During the investigation, police displayed a video showing 2,038 unique IP addresses that were broadcasting as either a 'download candidate' for suspected child pornography or where the user was present on a known child exploitation website.

These IP addresses were observed during the last 90 days in Ontario.

Arrests from this investigation have been made right across the province. They also involve residents, age 18 to 69, of Toronto, Peterborough, Cornwall, Timmins, Kingston, North Bay, Sudbury, Sault Ste. Marie, Whitby, Oshawa, Ajax, Markham, Newmarket, Brampton, Mississauga, Brantford, London, St. Thomas, Dundas, Hamilton, Belleville, Stratford, Woodstock, Cambridge, Thunder Bay, Windsor, Chatham, Petawawa, Pembroke, Milton, Oakville, Ottawa, Guelph and the Niagara Region.

OPP say the investigation is continuing and additional arrests are pending.

Also involved in the investigation leading to these arrests are the RCMP, South Simcoe police, Stratford police, St. Thomas police, Canada Border Services Agency, Canadian Forces National Investigation Service and United States Homeland Security Investigations.

See video at :  www.opp.ca/tms/entrydata.php?fnc=3&_id=5720f99f8f94ac4830c89876.

bbruton@postmedia.com

@BrutonBob