Missoula, MT (KGVO-AM News) - Six different men appeared in Missoula Justice Court on Friday afternoon before Judge Alex Beal, all charged with felony Sexual Abuse of Children under the age of 16. 

Detectives say the six were arrested individually after attempting to meet a juvenile for the purpose of sexual activity. 

Investigators say in several cases, a Missoula County Sheriff’s Office detective was working undercover in order to identify and apprehend individuals who were attempting to exploit children or to solicit underage minors for commercial sex. Authorities also say in another case, the investigating officer was an undercover FBI agent. 

The dates of the arrests were on November 1, November 2, and November 3. 

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In the charging documents, prosecutors say texts were exchanged between the investigators posing as the juvenile and the defendants in which times, dates and directions for contact were provided. 

Missoula County Sheriff’s Detectives were waiting at the appointed locations and each suspect was taken into custody without incident. 

The first count of Sexual Abuse of Children under the age of 16 is a felony, punishable by life or not less than four years or more than 100 years and a $10,000 fine.

The second count, Attempted Prostitution of a child over the age of 12 is a felony and is punishable by 100 years in the Montana State Prison and a $50,000 fine. 

Friday, the Missoula County Sheriff’s Office said this operation was a joint operation between the Montana FBI Child Exploitation and Human Trafficking Task Force (MT FBI CEHTTF). 

According to Public Information Officer Jeanette Smith, the task force is comprised of law enforcement personnel from various agencies in Montana and Federal Officers. 

“The Missoula County Sheriff’s Office was the central point for the operation but also worked very closely with City of Missoula Police Department,” Smith said. “This is the first time in recent years that the task force has focused their efforts in Missoula. The Task Force is focusing their efforts throughout Montana in areas where there is a concentrated population base." 

“Protecting children is a primary focus for Missoula County Sheriff’s Office and this effort has resulted in making our communities safer for our children,” stated Sheriff TJ McDermott. “We greatly appreciate the work done during this time by our law enforcement partners and the Task Force. This issue is not limited to a few days, a week, or a month in our county and we continually work to find and stop those preying on our young people.” 

KGVO will continue to follow this breaking story and have more information as it becomes available.

The information in this article was obtained from sources that are publicly viewable.

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