CHIMACUM — Four Sequim residents are among the 10 people arrested and accused of child sexual abuse crimes in an internet sting operation led by the State Patrol.
Arrests were made of people living in Clallam, Jefferson, Kitsap, Mason and Pierce counties, authorities announced late Monday.
Arrests were made during an elaborate four-day operation called Net Nanny in which detectives posed as children on the internet at websites known to be used by predators. Those arrested had expected to meet children at a place in Jefferson County that was not disclosed to the public.
For instance, Clinton R. Caldwell, 67, of Sequim was booked into the Clallam County jail on investigation of charges after he called a State Patrol detective who posed as the mother of 8- and 12-year-old children as part of the Net Nanny sting.
“This is someone who was on the internet, trolling for children,” Chief Criminal Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Michele Devlin said Tuesday at Caldwell’s first court appearance Tuesday.
In addition, seven children were identified as potential victims of sex abuse crimes, authorities said. They were between the ages of 8 and 13 years old.
“Over the last four days, we removed 10 out of the community, arresting them for various crimes that have to do with preying on children with the intent to have sex with them,” State Patrol Lt. James Mjor said. “It’s a felony.”
“We had 1,000 responses to this internet operation,” he said. “That is not uncommon. This is not just a Jefferson or Clallam issue. This is a national problem. We are one small piece of the pie. But it’s important to keep our children safe.
The 10 arrested were those who showed up, according to Mjor.
“I’m just glad when that when we opened up the door, they were met by an undercover officer and ultimately arrested,” he said.
More than 60 law enforcement officials and staff from 21 local, regional, state and national agencies were involved in the operation.
The program was begun in 2015 by the State Patrol. Since its inception, 170 arrests have been made and 24 child victims have been identified. This was the 11th operation conducted in the state.
At a hearing in Jefferson County Superior Court on Tuesday, bail was set at $50,000 for each defendant, according to Chief Prosecuting Attorney Julian St. Marie.
The nine people booked into Jefferson County jail for investigation of child sexual abuse are:
• Thomas E. Gale, 53 of Port Townsend, second-degree attempted rape of a child and communication with a minor for immoral purposes;
• Michael E. Punt, 56, of Bremerton, first-degree attempted rape of a child and second-degree attempted rape of a child:
• Andrew M. Worley, 34, of Sequim, communication with a minor for immoral purposes, sexual exploitation of a minor and attempted rape of a child, non-penile;
• David L. Sprague, 34, of Sequim, attempted second-degree rape of a child, non-penile and first-degree attempted rape of a child non-penile;
• Richard J. Bertolacci, 77, of Bremerton, first-degree attempted rape of a child, second-degree attempted rape of a child;
• Isaac J. Boyd, 21, of Sequim, second-degree attempted rape of a child and communication with a minor for immoral purposes;
• Timothy J. Rondeau Jr., 31, of Quilcene, communicating with a minor for immoral purposes and second-degree attempted rape of a child non-penile;
• Michael Schleutz, 65, of Hoodsport, communicating with a minor for immoral purposes, delivery of a controlled substance to a minor and attempted rape of a child non-penile;
• Ming Lee, 20, of Auburn, sexual exploitation of a minor, communication with a minor for immoral purposes and second-degree rape of a child non-penile;
Clinton R. Caldwell, 67, of Sequim was booked into Clallam County jail. A bail of $100,000 was set Tuesday in Clallam County Superior Court on charges of first- and second-degree attempted rape of a child. His arraignment is 9 a.m. April 6.
Gale, Punt, Bertolacci and Boyd all posted bail and were released. An arraignment hearing is scheduled for 8:30 a.m. Friday in Jefferson County.
Jefferson County Prosecutor Michael Haas said the arrests represent only the tip of the iceberg.
“The probable cause statements are disturbing to say the least,” Haas said. “Within this operation, the age range was from 8 to 13 years old. These people were seeking to have a sexual experience with children of this age.”
Some of the departments involved are the Jefferson and Clallam county sheriff offices; Port Angeles, Port Townsend, Sequim and Poulsbo police departments; detectives with the Olympic Peninsula Narcotics Task Force (OPNET) as well as the Internet Crimes Against Children task force; agents with Homeland Security, the FBI and Naval Criminal Investigative Services, as well as investigators with the U.S. Coast Guard.
Olympic Peninsula News Group’s Jefferson County Editor/Reporter Jeannie McMacken can be reached at 360-385-2335 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.