Two Kingston residents charged in massive OPP child exploitation project

OPP Acting Staff Sergeant Rob Simpson led a press conference on Wednesday, May 8, 2024, regarding “staggering” results of child exploitation investigations in the province. On the left, a human-sized graphic displayed an iceberg during the event, showing the 129 investigations completed during Project Aquatic and the 8,638 investigations completed in 2023 above the surface. Photo via OPP.

Two Kingston men are among 64 offenders charged as the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) announced staggering numbers in online child exploitation arrests as part of province-wide “Project Aquatic.”

Anthony Cochrane, age 44, of Kingston, was arrested and charged with possession of child pornography, two counts of voyeurism under 16, two counts of making child pornography, and two counts of voyeurism over 16. Cochrane was released from custody and his next court date is scheduled for Thursday, May 23, 2024, in Kingston.

Eric Foell, age 37, also of Kingston, was arrested and charged with making child pornography and bestiality. Foell is currently in custody and scheduled to appear in Kingston court on Friday, May 10, 2024.

In response to Kingstonist inquiries, Kingston Police shared that Foell was arrested on March 6, 2024, and Cochrane was first arrested in November 2023, however, the ensuing investigation uncovered evidence leading to additional charges, and he was rearrested in March 2024.

“These arrest stats are being contributed to Project Aquatic,” stated Const Anthony Colangeli, Media Relations Officer for Kingston Police.

The provincial law enforcement authority detailed Project Aquatic at the media event, noting that members of the OPP-led Provincial Strategy to Protect Children from Sexual Abuse and Exploitation on the Internet (Provincial ICE [Internet Child Exploitation] Strategy) took part in child sexual abuse investigations that were both reactive and proactive. 

OPP Detective Staff Sergeant Tim Brown, Provincial ICE Strategy Lead, described the operation. Beginning on February 19, 2024, and ending on February 29, 2024, investigations identified and arrested those making, possessing and distributing child sexual abuse material. The identified victims were provided victim support, and impacted children were “safeguarded,” which, Brown explained, meant they were taken out of harmful situations.

As a result of Project Aquatic:

  • 34 victims were identified
  • 30 children were safeguarded
  • 64 people were charged
  • 348 charges were laid
  • 607 electronic devices were seized

Notably, during the investigation, one individual set up a meeting with undercover investigators intending to meet with a child in real life for a sexual purpose. Another individual had approximately 21 terabytes of data containing child sexual abuse material.

OPP Detective Staff Sergeant Tim Brown, Provincial ICE Strategy Lead, described the operation and results of Project Aquatic. Photo via OPP.

“Child sexual exploitation is a grave crime with lasting effects. We’re dedicated to prevention and accountability. We need everyone’s support to combat this community issue. If you see something, report it. Together, we can create a safer environment for all children, ensuring their well-being and protection,” assured Brown.

A human-sized graphic displayed an iceberg during the media event, showing the 129 investigations completed during Project Aquatic and the 8,638 investigations completed in 2023 above the surface. 

In addition, 82,082 investigations were completed between 2006 and 2023 by the Provincial ICE Strategy’s 27 police services, representing the bottom of the iceberg beneath the water. Within that period, 29,025 charges were laid against 7,493 people. These completed investigations demonstrate the scope of the issue regarding child sexual abuse material, which remains a pervasive safety issue that is often unseen by many members of the public.

Brown said that the victims ranged in age from infants to teens in answer to a question. He noted that offenders also ranged in age from teens to senior citizens. When asked if young offenders were being groomed to take part in the exploitation, he said unequivocally, “Yes.” Many young offenders are targeted and groomed to perform crimes on behalf of older criminals.

OPP Commissioner Thomas Carrique noted, “Our collective strength lies in our ongoing commitment to protect children from the impacts of sexual exploitation. Through the Provincial ICE Strategy, we stand together in supporting victims, preventing victimization, and dismantling predatory activities. We are unrelenting in our mission to safeguard children and hold perpetrators accountable.”

Police members acknowledged the significant contributions of parents, educators, child advocacy organizations, government and technology providers in combating this issue. Provincial ICE Strategy members urge all parties to remain vigilant and to intensify their involvement to further strengthen the collective effort to protect children from victimization. 

Signy Arnason, Associate Executive Director, Canadian Centre for Child Protection, “When a child is being sexually abused, technology is likely being used to facilitate the ongoing harm. Survivors of child sexual abuse material have repeatedly said how important it is to get the images and videos of their abuse off the internet. Our agency sends 20,000+ removal notices to hosting providers every day. In addition to the critical efforts of police, you can help protect a victim by reporting to Cybertip.ca if you are concerned about someone’s online interaction with children.”

The Victim Services of Stormont, Dundas, Glengarry and Akwesasne provided victim support and education.

Anyone with information regarding instances of child exploitation is asked to contact their local police. Report any cases of online child abuse to police or cybertip.ca. If a child is being harmed, call 9-1-1.

A full list of those arrested as part of Project Aquatic and the charges against them can be read below.

With files from Tori Stafford.

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