Corunna man caught in Ontario online child exploitation investigation

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A 22-year-old Corunna man is one of 64 people arrested in the province-wide online child exploitation investigation by the OPP.

The Corunna man, who was not identified by the OPP, is charged with one three counts of sexual assault with a person under 16, three counts of sexual interference, two counts of making child pornography and a single count of possessing child pornography. He’s in a Sarnia court today.

A total of 348 charges were laid as a result of Project Aquatic, in an investigation spanning Feb. 19 to 29.  Thirty-four victims were identified and 30 children were safeguarded. There were also 607 electronic devices seized.

The results of Project Aquatic were announced this morning by the OPP. Detective Staff Sergeant Tim Brown, the provincial ICE strategy lead, said these type of investigations are disrupting criminal activity, saying much of the child pornography being produced is shared online and is being viewed by others.

During Project Aquatic, one person set up a meeting with undercover investigators intending to meet with a child in real life for sexual purposes. Another individual had 21 terabytes of data containing child sexual abuse material.

Brown urged parents, educators and the public to stay alert about online child exploitation, saying there is child luring and grooming taking place.

There have been 82,082 investigations completed by the OPP between 2006 and 2023 with 29,025 charges laid against 7,493 people. The ICE strategy involves the OPP child exploitation unit, 26 municipal police services including Sarnia, as well as the Ontario ministrys of the attorney general and the solicitor general.

Signy Arnason, associate executive director of the Canadian Centre for Child Protection, said her agency sends over 20,000 removal notices for online child pornography to hosting providers every day. Of those, 23 percent are from Ontario, which Arnason said is not only due to the large population of Ontario but the partnerships the Canadian Centre for Child Protection has within the province. People can report images they see online through cybertip.ca.

She said with the emergence of artificial intelligence has the problem has exploded. Existing sexual material can be taken to make more child pornography. In some cases, young people take photos of other students and produced nude images through artificial intelligence.

“To say it is a nightmare is an understatement,” said Arnason.