Police have arrested 26 suspected pedophiles, including a high school teacher and a swimming instructor for teens, with the help of an undercover agent who posed as a 13-year-old girl in online chats.
The agent, who has a youthful appearance, was in contact with the suspects over the past six months in an effort to gather evidence against sex offenders. To ensnare the suspects, the agent used fake social media accounts and spoke with the suspects on video calls.
Chief Superintendent Eitan Amar of the Negev District’s central unit noted that the agent was instructed not to seduce the suspects, initiate conversations or be proactive. “We were more responsive,” he said.
Police said suspects variously carried out indecent acts with the agent watching online, suggested that she undress, and offered to meet her in person.
“The vast majority of the suspects committed repeated offenses,” Amar said.
On Monday night police teams raided the homes of the suspects, aged 21 to 44, arrested them and confiscated equipment.
Those arrested included a high school teacher in Haifa, a swimming instructor who works with teens in Omer, near Beersheba, and a municipal worker whose city of residence was not detailed.
Amar noted that the suspects were otherwise seemingly “normal people, who claimed to the agent that they had daughters her age, and that did not deter them.”
In September prosecutors charged a youth handball coach from Herzliya on a series of sexually related offenses against dozens of minors in Israel and abroad over the last several years. Beno Reinhorn, 35, married with two children, was charged with molesting underage girls via the internet by persuading them to send him indecent photos and videos of themselves, including some that involved acts considered rape and sodomy under Israeli law.
Reinhorn has been charged in 28 cases, though state prosecutors have said they’ve identified 121 victims and potential victims that Reinhorn preyed upon, often posing as a modeling agent on the popular photo sharing app Instagram.