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Hundreds Arrested in Child Exploitation Probe

Federal authorities released details Thursday about a major operation that led to the identification and rescue of more than 100 sexually exploited children worldwide.

Globally, 245 people were arrested on child exploitation charges as a result of Operation Sunflower. Of those, 222 were in the United States, including nearly a dozen people from the Orlando/Cocoa Beach area, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced Thursday.

The agency's Cocoa Beach office also identified one victim as part of the operation.

ICE Director John Morton called the results of Operation Sunflower significant, but "grim."

Investigators rescued 123 children from active and past sexual abuse throughout the world, including 110 in the United States.

Some of the children abused were as young as two years old.

"Today is obviously a day of mixed emotions," Morton said. "The grim reality is that online child exploitation is a very real part of our modern lives."

Morton said Operation Sunflower spanned 47 states, six countries, and involved 5 1/2 weeks of intense searches.

Of the 123 victims identified during Operation Sunflower, five were under the age of three. Nine were ages 4 to 6; 21 were ages 7 to 9; 11 were ages 10 to 12; 38 were ages 13 to 15; and 15 were ages 16 to 17. Twenty-four of the victims identified are now adults who were victimized as children.

The most recent case was solved two weeks ago in Florida.

Authorities released a series of photographs of a woman wanted for producing child pornography, and hours later, ICE received a tip that lead to the woman's identification and arrest.

Corine Danielle Motley, 25, of Okaloosa County, is accused of producing at least one long-form child pornography video featuring herself and a victim who is 4 to 6 years old.

Copyright 2013 - Orlando Sentinel

McClatchy-Tribune News Service