4 Medicine Hat men charged with online child sexual exploitation as cases spike amid pandemic
'Our ICE unit has been inundated with cases involving online child exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic'
Police in Medicine Hat, Alta., have arrested and charged four men who are accused of online child sexual exploitation.
The Alberta Law Enforcement Response Teams' Internet Child Exploitation (ICE) unit made the arrests from May 12 to May 14 with the help of the Medicine Hat Police Service.
Investigators seized 43 computers and other devices, which are now undergoing a full forensic analysis, ALERT said in a release issued Thursday.
"Sadly, our ICE unit has been inundated with cases involving online child exploitation during the COVID-19 pandemic," said ALERT's CEO, Supt. Dwayne Lakusta.
"While people are spending more time online, I can't emphasize enough the need to implement safe internet practices and know-how in order to protect our children."
There is no known link among the suspects other than the nature of the alleged offences, police said.
Each of the following men was charged with at least one child pornography offence:
- Thomas Bindr, 27.
- Blaine Vadnais, 78.
- Jeremy Unruh, 43.
- Owen Michael Monteith, 34.
None of the suspects were employed in positions of trust or authority over children, police said.
ICE is an integrated team that includes members of the police forces in Calgary, Lethbridge and Medicine Hat along with RCMP members.
The unit investigates offences involving child pornography, computer-related child sexual abuse, child luring over the internet, voyeurism involving victims under the age of 18, and child sex trade/tourism offences.
The Canadian Centre for Child Protection has information on its website for families during the COVID-19 crisis, including resources for caregivers, schools and educators.
Anyone with information about any child exploitation offence is encouraged to contact local police or cybertip.ca.