LOS ANGELES -- Hours after asking the public's help in finding a Jane Doe suspect accused in a child porn cold case, federal agents arrested a 52-year-old woman outside her apartment complex in the San Fernando Valley's North Hills community.
Letha Mae Montemayor, 52, was arrested about 7:30 p.m. Thursday by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents and Los Angeles police. Montemayor, who has been charged with one count of child pornography production in a federal complaint, was identified by both her facial appearance and the presence of known tattoos, the agency said.
Montemayor's capture brings the total arrests in ICE's Operation Sunflower to 246 suspected child porn producers in the five-week investigation that spanned 46 states and six countries and includes the Bay Area. Locally, agents procured five indictments for individuals from their late 20s to late 50s.
One of the suspects is Michael Lindsay, 53, of San Jose, arrested Nov. 8 at San Francisco International Airport on suspicion of engaging in child sex tourism. He was boarding a flight to Manila, Philippines. Two months earlier, Lindsay returned from a trip to the Philippines, and that country issued a criminal complaint alleging he had sexual contact with a 13-year-old girl.
Agents continue to search for additional victims, as evidence suggests Lindsay had sexual contact with more children, according to ICE.
The other three are all arrested on suspicion of child porn distribution and possession: Laurence Pullen, 59, of Pleasant Hill; Terrance Tate, 41, of Rohnert Park; and Ruben Shells, 27, of Sebastopol. One other Bay Area suspect was still on the lam Friday, and authorities were not identifying him.
During Operation Sunflower, federal agents identified 123 sexually exploited children, some as young as 2.
Investigators are still trying to identify Montemayor's suspected victim in a series of widely circulated images they believe were taken 11 years ago involving the sexual molestation of a girl estimated to be 13 years old. That victim would now be an adult, and authorities are still trying to find her, ICE said. The case was first identified in 2007, but stalled.
The break in Montemayor's cold case came at about 2 p.m. Thursday when ICE special agents received the first phone tip about her possible identity.
Montemayor was expected to make her first federal court appearance Friday, but her alleged accomplice "John Doe" is still unidentified. He appears in the video, but his face is purposely obscured, according to ICE investigators. Forensic analysis of the images led investigators to narrow the search to the Los Angeles area.
"This significant development brings us one step closer to vindicating the victim and helping to regain some dignity for all victims of child exploitation crimes," said U.S. Attorney André Birotte, of the Central District of California. "With the help of the media and concerned members of the public, we were able to quickly identify the woman allegedly involved in this child pornography case. We still want the public's help in identifying John Doe and the victim in the disturbing series of images that continue to be circulated on the Internet."
Two other unidentified male child porn producers targeted in Operation Sunflower and accused of sexually exploiting pre-pubescent toddlers have not been located. Their mug shots have been posted by media across the country.
The public can report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through the ICE's toll-free hotline at 866-DHS-2-ICE or by completing its online tip form at www.ICE.gov/tips. Tips can be anonymous.
Contact Matthias Gafni at 925-952-5026. Follow him at Twitter.com/mgafni.