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Local Man Charged: Online Solicitation

Arrested in statewide sting targeting child predators.

Anarug Sharma, 35, of Fairfax, was one of 20 people across Virginia arrested last week as a result of “Operation Phalanx” – an undercover operation targeting alleged child predators. It was a collaborative effort between Virginia's two Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces and the attorney general’s office.

The week-long operation was conducted in 2011. It was the first time the Northern Virginia-D.C. and the Southern Virginia ICAC task forces worked jointly, and the pairing paid off. Those nabbed were charged with either online solicitation of a minor or distribution of child pornography.

“A primary responsibility of law enforcement is to protect our most innocent citizens – Virginia's children,” said Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli, himself a father. “I want to thank the dozens of ICAC investigators from the two task forces, under the leadership of [Virginia State Police Superintendent] Col. W. Steven Flaherty and [Bedford County] Sheriff Mike Brown, for their participation in this important operation.”

Cuccinelli also praised them for their “continued dedication and hard work to make sure that these [alleged] predators are taken off the streets.”

Sharma was charged with two counts of using communications systems to facilitate offenses involving children. He was also charged with one count of attempted indecent liberties with a child.

The attorney general’s Computer Crime Section provided legal guidance throughout the operation. Nine of the arrests came from Northern Virginia-D.C. ICAC Task Force investigations. However, just five names of those arrested have been made public, and Sharma is the only one of them from Fairfax County. Authorities cannot reveal the other four names at this time because doing so would jeopardize other, ongoing investigations.

Besides this county, the 20 people arrested live in jurisdictions including Bedford, Prince William, Virginia Beach, Richmond and Loudoun. In addition, 23 search warrants were executed as a result of the investigations, and another 20 cases were referred for investigation and prosecution outside Virginia. They involve ICACs in other parts of the U.S., as well as law-enforcement agencies in France and Australia.

Both Commonwealth task forces are comprised of dozens of federal, state and local law-enforcement agencies that have been working diligently in this arena for more than a decade. And, Flaherty said, “As the cases and tips continue to increase, so will the vigilance and determination of the Northern Virginia-D.C. ICAC Task Force members to safeguard the Commonwealth from those who choose to prey upon our children.”