Operation Sunflower Nets Hundreds of ArrestsPosted:
SPRINGFIELD-Operation Sunflower is a new program through ICE to rescue sexually exploited children and catch their abusers around the world. Investigators were able to identify 123 victims of sexual abuse over the past year, and one of those abusers was right here in Central Illinois.
Homeland Security investigators arrested 48-year-old Ann Marie Piper" in Springfield in May.
They matched her photo to an image of an adult woman sexually abusing a child.
In November, she was sentenced to 25 years in federal prison and a lifetime of supervised release for her involvement in, production and distribution of child pornography.
Operation Sunflower also resulted in the arrest of 244 others.
Much of the investigating involves internet photos and even social media, posting pictures and then crosschecking it with the national database for missing and exploited children.
Forty-four of the victims were actually living with the person who abused them. The others were either abused by people outside of their home or they are now adults who were abused as children.
Anyone with information or tips on child pornography that can assist in these investigations is encouraged to call 1-866-DHS-2-ICE or visitwww.ICE.gov/tips. Tips may be reported anonymously