Arizona authorities arrested 40 men in connection to child sex crimes as part of an inter-agency operation called “Behind the Mask,” officials said Tuesday.
The men, ranging between 20 and 64 years old, were arrested on suspicion of charges that included luring a minor for sexual exploitation, aggravated luring a minor for sexual exploitation, child sex trafficking and attempted sexual conduct with a minor.
The operation was the result of a partnership involving the Tempe Police Department, Homeland Security, the FBI and the Attorney General’s office, as well as Phoenix, Messa and Scottsdale police.
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“Throughout the operational period, undercover detectives placed ads on websites commonly sought out by suspects seeking illegal sex acts,” police told Fox 10 Phoenix. “The suspects reportedly solicited and/or brokered deals for various sex acts and were subsequently arrested.”
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The suspects could face additional charges related to drugs and money laundering, AZ Central reported.
Among those arrested was Kevin Lee Qualls, an employee of LOCALiQ, a USA TODAY Network division that provides digital marketing products for news sites including The Arizona Republic and azcentral.com.
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“We find these allegations extremely concerning and are cooperating with the appropriate authorities,” said a spokesperson for The Republic.
A full list of suspects and charges can be found here.