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82 Arrested in Multi-State Child Exploitation Operation Named “Operation Southern Impact III”

Updated: May 4, 2019

A total of 82 people were arrested, and 17 children were rescued or identified as victims during a mutually coordinated operation between eight (8) southeastern states. The joint, proactive operation, Operation Southern Impact III, was coordinated by ten (10) Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in those eight states and focused on persons who possess and distribute child pornography and those who are sexually exploiting children in other ways using technology and the internet.  The planning for Operation Southern Impact III began approximately 4 months ago and culminated in 3 days of investigative actions to include search warrant executions, undercover operations, arrests and sex offender compliance verification visits in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. A total of 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies participated in the operation.

The arrestees ranged in age from 20 to 70.  Some of their occupations included non-profit employee, small business owner, store clerk, mechanic, daycare administrator, youth group leader, former high school band director, freelance photographer, construction worker and painter.   During the operation, 134 search warrants were executed and 215 knock and talks were conducted in those eight (8) states. During those search warrants and knock and talks, 861 digital devices were previewed and 1,613 digital devices were seized.  Of those devices seized 203 were mobile phones. 

These investigative actions resulted from both reactive cases such as cybertips received by each ICAC Task Force from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and proactive cases such as peer-to-peer investigations and proactive, on-line undercover investigations.  Daily each task force receives numerous cybertips from NCMEC related to online child exploitation.  During Operation Southern Impact III, the investigations related to 248 cybertips were progressed through the execution of these search warrants and knock and talks, and through the seizure of digital devices which will be forensically processed in the coming weeks.  There were 22 internet safety presentations or related events held during the operation as well.

The continued collaboration among the national network of ICAC Task Forces is one of the most successful partnerships in the history of law enforcement.  The 61 ICAC Task Forces across the country are working cases and conducting investigative actions like these every day. The Commanders of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in these states wanted to reinforce to those who harm and exploit children that the ICAC Task Forces will tirelessly work together to make an impact in their respective states and the region as a whole.  The cooperation among agencies and among states illustrates their level of commitment to detect, arrest, and prosecute child predators. Cooperation is always important in law enforcement, but it is never more important than when we set out to protect children. Operation Southern Impact III has given us an opportunity to share our experience, information, and resources across units, agencies, and state lines, to make sure that there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us. 

In Georgia, 31 people were arrested during Operation Southern Impact III.  Most of those arrests involved the possession and/or distribution of child pornography.  While investigators regularly target the trading of all types of child pornography, in Operation Southern Impact III investigators targeted those seeking out and distributing the most violent sexual abuse material involving infants and toddlers.  The possession, distribution and production of these horrific images is not uncommon. The Georgia ICAC Task Force consistently finds this type of content.  Special Agent in Charge of the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit and Commander of the Georgia ICAC Task Force, Debbie Garner, stated that “the dedicated law enforcement professionals that are part of the Georgia ICAC Task Force will not cease searching for those who are producing, trading and collecting this graphic material.  We will continue to work together to find, investigate and prosecute these predators.”

Seven (7) of those arrested in Georgia traveled for the purpose of meeting and having sex with a minor. A goal of the operation was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.  On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex.  The children these predators target are both boys and girls.    

During the operation, four (4) registered sex offenders were encountered and arrested in Georgia on charges related to child pornography. One (1) of the registered sex offenders arrested during Operation Southern Impact III was initially arrested by the GBI during a very similar operation in 2015. 

Additionally, as part of Operation Southern Impact III, Department of Community Supervision (DCS) Officers across the state, working with numerous local law enforcement agencies, conducted searches and attempted warrant service on sex offenders that had violated the terms of their supervision. As a result of their efforts, 1,153 searches and 93 arrests were completed. Eight (8) firearms, as well as ammunition, pornographic material, drugs, and drug paraphernalia, were located during the searches.  Of those arrested, 32 were under supervision for a computer-related sex offense.  DCS is an active member of the Georgia ICAC Task Force. Everyday DCS Officers work diligently in their communities to provide opportunities for successful outcomes, while holding offenders accountable.

In Georgia, a total of 56 search warrants were executed and 41 knock and talks were conducted during Operation Southern Impact III. Law enforcement officers conducting the searches were looking for evidence of possession and distribution of child pornography using the internet as well as evidence of other child exploitation related crimes.  Over the course of the operation, 305 digital devices were examined on site and 972 digital media and devices were seized as evidence.  During these searches, illegal drugs and firearms were found as well.

The operation was a coordinated effort between the following local, state, and federal criminal justice agencies in Georgia:

Air Force Office of Special Investigations

Alpharetta Police Department

Americus Police Department

Athens-Clarke County Police Department

Atlanta Police Department

Baldwin County Sheriff's Office

Barrow County Sheriff’s Office

Bartow County Sheriff’s Office

Bibb County Sheriff’s Office

Burke County Sheriff’s Office

Camden County Sheriff’s Office

Candler County Sheriff’s Office

Carroll County Sheriff’s Office

Clayton County Police Department

Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office

Cobb County Police Department

Colquitt County Sheriff's Office

Columbia County Sheriff’s Office

Coweta County Sheriff’s Office

Crawford County Sheriff's Office

Dawson County Sheriff’s Office

DeKalb County Police Department

DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office

Department of Community Supervision

Duluth Police Department

Effingham County Sheriff’s Office

Federal Bureau of Investigation

Floyd County Police Department

Forsyth County Sheriff’s OfficeFt. Valley Police Department

Georgia Bureau of Investigation

GA Fusion Center – GBI-GISAC

Glynn County Sheriff’s Office

Glynn County Police Department

Greene County Sheriff's Office

Gwinnett County Police Department

Gwinnett County District Attorney’s Office

Habersham County Sheriff's Office

Hall County Sheriff’s Office

Haralson County Sheriff’s Office

Heard County Sheriff’s Office

Henry County Police Department

Henry County Sheriff's Office

Hiram Police Department

Houston County Sheriff’s Office

Jefferson Police Departmen

tJesup Police Department

John’s Creek Police Department

Jones County Sheriff's Office

Liberty County Sheriff’s Office

Marietta Police Department

Lilburn Police DepartmentLong County Sheriff’s Office

Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office

McIntosh County Sheriff’s OfficeMonroe County Sheriff’s Office

Morgan County Sheriff's Office

Muscogee County Sheriff's Office

Newton County Sheriff’s Office

Paulding County Sheriff’s Office

Peach County Sheriff's Office

Polk County Police Department

Putnam County Sheriff’s Office

Richmond County Sheriff’s Office

Roswell Police Department

Sandy Springs Police Department

Savannah Police Department

Sumter County Sheriff’s Office

Suwanee Police Department

Thomas County Sheriff’s Office

Troup County Sheriff’s Office

Tyrone Police Department

United States Department of Homeland Security

United States Marshals Service

United States Secret Service

Walton County Sheriff’s Office

Wayne County Sheriff’s Office

Wilkinson County Sheriff's Office

Those arrested in Georgia were charged with crimes pursuant to O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007.  Additional charges are likely and other arrests will occur after analysis of seized digital devices.

Those in custody and charged in Georgia as part of Operation Southern Impact III are:

James Barfield IV, 51, Atlanta, GA, home improvement store employeeDillan M. Bell, 26, Allenhurst, GA, unemployedGerald Chamberlain, 34, Rome, GA, golf course maintenance workerCarol Chellew, 56, Jefferson, GA, county employeeDoug Chellew, 56, Jefferson, GA, department store employeeTimothy Wayne Diggs, 39, Metter, GA, information technology specialistKeith James Diver, 37, Norcross, GA, restaurant employeeErick Noe Gonzalez, 26, Buford, GA, landscaperErik Gordon, 30, Morrow, GA, shipping company employeeDesmond Lemond Hasley, 27, Douglasville, GA, staffing company employeeKeidron Jayquan Isham, 23, Rome, GA, unemployedClaude Martin Johnson IV, 21, Augusta, GA, unemployedAndrew Kim, 30, Suwanee, GA, business ownerJordan Logan, 33, Grovetown, GA, painterJonathan Craig Manning, 28, Rome, GA, railroad workerAndrew J. Martz, 30, Tyrone, GA, studentMatthew James McDurmond, 26, Cedartown, unknown Terry Menard, 61, Roswell, GA, multimedia designer Daniel Joseph Mullinax, 35, Auburn, GA, unemployedJustin Lee Myers, 22, Cleveland, GA, unknownAndrew Benjamin Nelson, 42, Marietta, GA, construction workerMichael David Quinn, 44, Roswell, GA, unknownMatthew Steven Ramski, 37, Cumming, GA, graphic design artistArlen Lemuel Riddle, 46, Muscadine, AL, firemanMalchijah Robinson, 40, Decatur, GA, unemployedDavid Chris Sammons, 33, Eatonton, GA, factory workerOmar S. Sanchez-Viera, 40, Jonesboro, GA, health supplement company employeeChad Sitzwohl, 35, Dawsonville, GA, factory workerWille D. Slaughter, 33, Valdosta, GA, military veteranWan Yeung Tang, 45, Cumming, GA, dishwasherTyler Wooten, 21, Sharpsburg, GA, student

The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of 230+ local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutor’s offices.  The mission of the ICAC Task Force, created by the U. S. Department of Justice and managed and operated by the GBI in Georgia, is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This support encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, prevention and community education. The ICAC Program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims. By helping state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, the ICAC program delivers national resources at the local level. The Georgia ICAC Task Force made 244 arrests in 2015. In 2016, the Georgia ICAC Task Force arrested 340 persons.  In 2017, the Georgia ICAC Task Force arrested 350 people for crimes related on online child exploitation. In 2018, the Georgia ICAC Task Force made 307 arrests.  The Georgia ICAC TF received almost 5,000 tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2018.