Caring for children is spoken of highly in the Bible. For example, James 1:27 says that caring for children in need pleases God: “Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” Ephesians 6:4 says, “Fathers, do not exasperate your children; instead, bring them up in the training and instruction of the Lord.” Psalm 127:3 calls children “a heritage from the Lord.” Jesus’ interactions with children (notably in Matthew 18) demonstrate the value God places on them. The Bible speaks often about caring for the weak, poor, and needy—and this would include at-risk children (Proverbs 14:31; 17:5; 19:17; 31:8–9). Followers of Christ are consistently called to love others. Molesting a child can in no way be mistaken for love.
The Bible also speaks strongly against sexual sin. Sex is a gift given by God meant for marriage. Sexual perversion of all kinds is soundly condemned. Sexually assaulting a child is never justifiable; it is always wrong.
Decatur, GA – 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 Office
- Ft. 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 Department
- Jesup Police Department
- John’s Creek Police Department
- Jones County Sheriff’s Office
- Liberty County Sheriff’s Office
- Marietta Police Department
- Lilburn Police Department
- Long County Sheriff’s Office
- Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office
- McIntosh County Sheriff’s Office
- Monroe 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 employee
- Dillan M. Bell, 26, Allenhurst, GA, unemployed
- Gerald Chamberlain, 34, Rome, GA, golf course maintenance worker
- Carol Chellew, 56, Jefferson, GA, county employee
- Doug Chellew, 56, Jefferson, GA, department store employee
- Timothy Wayne Diggs, 39, Metter, GA, information technology specialist
- Keith James Diver, 37, Norcross, GA, restaurant employee
- Erick Noe Gonzalez, 26, Buford, GA, landscaper
- Erik Gordon, 30, Morrow, GA, shipping company employee
- Desmond Lemond Hasley, 27, Douglasville, GA, staffing company employee
- Keidron Jayquan Isham, 23, Rome, GA, unemployed
- Claude Martin Johnson IV, 21, Augusta, GA, unemployed
- Andrew Kim, 30, Suwanee, GA, business owner
- Jordan Logan, 33, Grovetown, GA, painter
- Jonathan Craig Manning, 28, Rome, GA, railroad worker
- Andrew J. Martz, 30, Tyrone, GA, student
- Matthew James McDurmond, 26, Cedartown, unknown
- Terry Menard, 61, Roswell, GA, multimedia designer
- Daniel Joseph Mullinax, 35, Auburn, GA, unemployed
- Justin Lee Myers, 22, Cleveland, GA, unknown
- Andrew Benjamin Nelson, 42, Marietta, GA, construction worker
- Michael David Quinn, 44, Roswell, GA, unknown
- Matthew Steven Ramski, 37, Cumming, GA, graphic design artist
- Arlen Lemuel Riddle, 46, Muscadine, AL, fireman
- Malchijah Robinson, 40, Decatur, GA, unemployed
- David Chris Sammons, 33, Eatonton, GA, factory worker
- Omar S. Sanchez-Viera, 40, Jonesboro, GA, health supplement company employee
- Chad Sitzwohl, 35, Dawsonville, GA, factory worker
- Wille D. Slaughter, 33, Valdosta, GA, military veteran
- Wan Yeung Tang, 45, Cumming, GA, dishwasher
- Tyler 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.
Contact information for each ICAC Task Force is as follows:
Alabama ICAC Task Force:
Brooke Walker, firstname.lastname@example.org
Central Florida ICAC Task Force:
Justin Shah, email@example.com
South Florida ICAC Task Force:
Thomas McInerney, 954-888-5321, firstname.lastname@example.org
Georgia ICAC Task Force:
Debbie Garner, 404-270-8870, email@example.com
Maryland ICAC Task Force:
Maryland State Police Office of Media Communications, 410-653-4236
North Carolina ICAC Task Force:
Angie Grube, 919-909-5833
South Carolina ICAC Task Force:
Robert Kittle, 803-734-3670, firstname.lastname@example.org
Northern Virginia ICAC Task Force:
Corinne Geller, 804-674-2789, Corinne.Geller@vsp.virginia.gov
Southern Virginia ICAC Task Force:
Sergeant Steve Anders, 434-534-9521, x-222
West Virginia ICAC Task Force:
“Why” abuse happens is that we live in a world marred by sin. Often, those who molest children have themselves been molested. They may have been hurt in some other way as well and choose to victimize children in an attempt to regain a sense of power or worthiness. Many times, sexual abuse is a misguided attempt to find intimacy. Whatever the emotional, familial, or psychological history of the molester, sexual abuse is evil.
Molestation or sexual abuse is NEVER the fault of the abused child. Many victims of abuse experience shame and guilt. But children cannot be held responsible for crimes perpetrated against them. This is not to say that victims of abuse are absolved of responsibility for their own actions, including those prompted by scars of the abuse. But there is nothing shameful about having been abused. The shame belongs to the abuser alone.
MY MISSION IS NOT TO CONVINCE YOU, ONLY TO INFORM…
Evil men don’t understand the importance of justice, but those who follow the Lord are much concerned about it. ~ Proverbs 28:5
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