ORILLIA – A staff sergeant with the Ontario Provincial Police Child Sexual Exploitation Unit says an online undercover child luring investigation into a prominent SD&G politician lasted approximately two months.
OPP arrested 53-year-old Frank Prevost on Tuesday and charged him with three counts of child luring as well as an additional count of sexual assault related to a separate investigation.
In an interview with Cornwall Newswatch about their investigation, Staff Sgt. Sharon Hanlon says having officers pose as a minor on the internet is one part of their technique.
“That is one aspect what we do in terms of our undercover investigation. We go online where the kids are, sites we know that are predicated with adults intent on sexually taking advantage of young persons. Yes, very often those types of investigations involve a law enforcement officer trained in online work,” Hanlon said.
The sergeant says the Prevost case involving a charge of sexual assault allegedly involving an adult is completely separate from their investigation. She couldn’t speak to the length of that investigation.
The arrest was carried out Tuesday also involved Grenville County OPP and SD&G OPP.
Hanlon says they were in “an assisting role” because there was another arrest involving an accused child predator on the same day. She says due to the pandemic they are seeing a “big uptake” of attempts to exploit children online.
“We grab uniform members from wherever we can, so Grenville and SD&G detachments were involved throughout the day, so that’s just a resource issue and that’s how they were involved,” Hanlon told Cornwall Newswatch.
Hanlon says during Prevost’s arrest, “there was one item seized for further digital forensic examination,” describing it only as a digital device.
Prevost was released Wednesday on a $2,000 bail bond. His next court appearance date is June 24.
None of the allegations against Prevost have been proven in court.
As for whether there are other active investigations into child luring in SD&G, Hanlon had this warning:
“Anyone intent on using the internet to exploit our children, you can rest assured that there’s a variety of online undercover officers coming to a neighbourhood near you, at any time, anywhere and moment of our choosing.”
Meantime, the United Counties of Stormont, Dundas and Glengarry will hold an “emergency special meeting” at 1 p.m. today (June 10). It’s scheduled for two hours. Councillors will be in closed session to talk about “personal matters about an identifiable individual, including municipal or local board employees,” under section 239 of the Municipal Act.