COLORADO SPRINGS — Officers with the Colorado Springs Police Department's Internet Crimes Against Children Unit announce the arrests of 5 men accused of internet luring of a child and attempted sexual assault of a child as the result of an undercover sting operation.
Details on the investigation have not been released at this time. However, this type of operation normally involves officers posing as children on internet forums or other platforms where they may come in contact with adults seeking photos, videos or a face-to-face meeting.
The five men were arrested in mid-December. They've been identified as:
- Michael Lowell Renfro, 39 years old, Colorado Springs
- Gustavo Cota, 28 years old, Colorado Springs
- Bryan George Blakely, 29 years old, Littleton
- Timothy William Brace, 22 years old, Fort Carson
- Robert Allen Elliot, 49 years old, Woodland Park
A Fort Carson official has confirmed Timothy Brace is enlisted in the US Army and assigned to Division Artillery, 4th Infantry Division as a Signal Support Systems Specialist
What is the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force?
The task force processed a record 2,600 tips related to potential cases of child pornography and child luring in 2018. Many were flagged by the big tech companies who then relayed the information to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children. The NCMEC then distributes those leads to the Colorado Springs Police Department which heads the ICAC Task Force in Colorado.
The program was started February 1, 1999, less than six months after Google had launched. It was a time before smartphones and tablets.
The most common cases involve teenagers and pre-teens who shared naked images of themselves online, a crime known as self-production of child pornography.
“A lot of times when we’re doing presentations for prevention I tell people you don’t know your photo’s fate once you send something,” Sgt. Jason Ledbetter of the Colorado Springs Police Department told News5 in early 2019. “And once it’s out of your hands, you don’t have a choice anymore and it can be shared exponentially.”
He says parents need to know who their kids are communicating with online now more than ever.
“The friends that your kids have on social media, or online, should be the friends they have in person, someone they know personally and that you approve of as a parent,” Ledbetter said.
He discourages young people from sharing any images of themselves with someone online that they haven’t met in person. Another big red flag is if someone online asks your child to communicate with on a different application.
Ledbetter said that child should notify their parent or a trusted adult right away.
For more resources on internet safety, visit the Colorado Internet Crimes Against Children , the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children , and NetSmartz.org .