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60 Ontarians charged in massive child-porn bust

Ontario provincial police have charged 60 people, including three young offenders, in what they believe is one of the largest child-porn busts in Canada.

The arrests were part of a co-ordinated operation involving 24 police forces and more than 100 officers, the OPP said at a news conference Thursday in Vaughan.

Police laid more than 200 charges and seized drugs and weapons during dozens of raids this week.

“The sweep carried out over the past few days serves as another wake-up call to those who commit these monstrous crimes against children,” said OPP acting commissioner Scott Tod.

“Every image of child pornography represents a child victim. Every trading or transmission of that image represents a re-victimization of that child.”

Police said those arrested, including 13 GTA residents, are accused of sexual assault, child luring and possessing, distributing, making and accessing child pornography.

One of the accused worked at Lynn-Rose Heights Private School. Bret Sheppard was a support worker, the school confirmed Thursday.

“He is no longer employed in these capacities, and no longer has access to school property…We have been informed by police that at this time there is no evidence that our students, past or present, are connected to the charges,” the school said in a statement.

OPP Det. Staff Sgt. Frank Goldschmidt said it’s still too early in the investigation to determine if the suspects were part of a ring.

“At this point in time, it looks like they were all operating individually,” he said.

So far the investigation has turned up 22 victims in Ontario — all now safe — but the OPP said it would likely find others and arrest more suspects.

Since August 2006, officers with the government-ordered Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet and the OPP Child Sexual Exploitation Unit have charged 1,867 people with more than 5,800 offences.

“The provincial strategy will stop at nothing to hunt down child predators and eliminate the threat they pose to our children,” Tod said. “You cannot hide your crimes. You cannot hide your identities. We are looking, and we will stop you from victimizing our children.”

Click here for a list of suspects.