Location: Tulare County

Incident Date: 2/25/17

City: Tulare County

Posted by: Media Relations

UPDATE: One more arrested in Operation Baby Face phase IV


Deputies arrested another suspect Monday from the Operation Baby Face Phase IV detail: Michael Farias, 19, of Exeter. Charges are PC 288a, 261.5, 288.3, 288.4. Bail $100,000.

***************************Original Press Release**************

Operation Baby Face continues as Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announces Feb. 27, 2017 the arrests of eight suspects for soliciting sex acts from juveniles in Phase IV of Operation Baby Face and the roll out of Phase V, an internet child safety campaign.

Billboards have gone up throughout Tulare County educating residents about online child predators. 
“I want the public’s attention,” he said. “Everyone needs to know that there are predators looking to prey on the innocence of our children. We will be vigilant and aggressive in identifying these predators.”

Sheriff Boudreaux has dedicated both the Cyber Crimes Unit and the Crimes Against Children Unit to the protection of children in Tulare County. This is an ongoing, aggressive and vigilant effort.

Five phases for Operation Baby Face were developed in a very strategic plan to continue to deter this type of crime against children in Tulare County and also to educate parents, children and the community at large.

The Sheriff’s Internet Child Safety Campaign is multi-faceted:
-    Community Liaison meets with service groups to give a PowerPoint presentation about the dangers children face online from predators.
-    A School Resource Officer is scheduling presentations at schools in Tulare County to educate children about what not to share online and who to avoid. 
-    Billboards rotate through Tulare County at multiple locations warning of stranger danger online.
-    Public Service Announcements air on local radio stations.
-    Media interviews help educate the community about internet safety.

The Sheriff’s message is simple:
1)    Engage your children and know what they are doing.
2)    Educate your family about the dangers of the internet.
3)    Enforce the rules and hold your children accountable.

Phase I: Operation Baby Face was announced on August 11, when the Sheriff’s Office took down a human trafficking ring in Tulare County, arresting three primary suspects and 12 co-conspirators for sexually exploiting 23 juveniles and 29 adults.

During the first phase, a female deputy represented herself online as a 16-year-old girl in Tulare County. In no time, several men pursued her even though it was clear she was underage.
While they didn’t meet the criteria of a human trafficking case, they did pursue her, whom they believed to be a female juvenile, for sexual acts. That is a crime. 

The undercover deputy continued the rouse online which led to Operation Baby Face Phase II and Phase IV.

Phase II: On Aug. 22, 2016, Sheriff Mike Boudreaux announced seven men were arrested over the previous weekend following an operation similar to “Dateline NBC: To Catch a Predator.” 

Through an online undercover operation, seven predators were identified and arrested for soliciting sex from an adult undercover deputy purporting herself to be a 16-year-old female juvenile online.

Phase III: As a preventative measure, Sheriff Boudreaux assigned 35 deputies and police officers from allied agencies to spread out the day before Halloween to 137 residences for Sex Offender Registration compliance checks.

Deputies made sure registered sex offenders were where they were supposed to be and not decorating for Halloween to attract children to their homes. Three suspects were arrested and 15 registered sex offenders were out of compliance, that is, they were not living where they said they were living and warrants were issued for their arrests.

Phase IV: In October, the Crimes against Children Unit opened an undercover decoy operation targeting online sexual predators seeking to victimize children in Tulare County. A deputy went undercover online and represented herself as a 16-year-old female.

In late November, a second fictitious female profile was created online. This time, an undercover deputy purported herself to be a 14-year-old female living in the Visalia area. The goal of these two accounts was to target local predators that would be willing to come meet juvenile females for sexual acts.  

In approximately three months’ time, the fictitious accounts established more than 2,800 “friends” on social media. Each account received sexually explicit materials and conversations from suspects. Approximately 80 percent of the 14 year old’s “friends” were adult males, who obviously had never met the fictitious female.  

As part of Phase IV, detectives learned in February that a 14-year-old male juvenile had been solicited for sexual acts from adult males on a social media site. Detectives then created a fictitious profile in which a detective portrayed a 14-year-old male. 

Adult males, ages 27 and 39, connected with the new profile online and engaged in sexually explicit conversations with the purported juvenile, agreeing to meet him for various sexual acts Feb. 14. Upon arrival at the agreed location, the suspects were arrested and booked in jail for felony charges.

These suspects were:

Brock Pearson, 39, of Springville,  Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC 
Fernando Chavez, 27, of Dinuba   Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC

Also as part of Phase IV, on Feb. 25, another operation was put in place in Visalia - this time to target 17 identified in-state suspects who were seeking sexual contact with the 14-year-old female decoy.  She advised them that she was visiting another 14-year-old friend while her parents were out of town. The suspects and the decoy discussed meeting at this residence for the purpose of performing sexual acts.  Three of the suspects discussed having the other juvenile also participate in the sex acts. 

The following suspects arrived at the location for the purpose of having sex with a 14-year-old minor and were taken in to custody:

Javier Hernandez, 22, Porterville            Bail $100,000.00     Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC 
Benjamin Lopez-Herrera, 23, Delano      Bail $100,000.00    Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC 
Hector Ornelas, 24, Avenal                      Bail $130,000.00   Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC, 664-261.5(d
Jonathon Hernandez, 25, Porterville        Bail $150,000.00    Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC, 288(c)(1) PC 
Steven Albertson, 27, Visalia                   Bail $150,000.00    Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC , 288(c)(1) PC, 664-261.5(d), 664-288a PC 
Raymond Lopez, 52, San Pablo                Bail $150,000.00   Charges 288.3 PC, 288.4 PC , 288(c)(1) PC, 664-261.5(d), 664-288a PC            
*52 year old suspect Raymond Lopez brought each of the 14 year olds multiple pieces of Victoria’s Secret clothing, body lotions and bath sprays as well as alcohol.  

Phase V: The Sheriff’s Internet Child Safety Campaign follows the three E’s: Engage, educate and enforce.

The Tulare County Sheriff’s Office will engage with parents and children in Tulare County through presentations at service groups, classroom presentations, parent presentations, information pamphlets, billboards, public service announcements and investigations such as Operation Baby Face. 

The goal is to educate parents and children about what children are doing online that could leave them vulnerable to predators, how predators pursue their victims and what to do if anyone falls victim.

The Sheriff’s Office will enforce the laws to protect the innocence of Tulare County children. 
Sheriff Boudreaux asks that parents do their part to keep their children safe.

“Talk to your children,” he said. “You are the parents. Look at what your children are doing online. Be a concerned and protective parent.”

4)    Engage your children and know what they are doing.
5)    Educate your family about the dangers of the internet.
6)    Enforce the rules and hold your children accountable.

“Speak to your children,” he said. “Ask the difficult questions.”

Please contact law enforcement if you discover anything suspicious or need advice.

“We are here for you,” Sheriff Boudreaux said.

Tulare County Sheriff’s Office: (559) 733-6218 or anonymously through TipNow at (559) 725-4194 or tcso@tipnow.com.