Nine men, including one from Dacula, were recently arrested as a result of an undercover child exploitation sting coordinated between local, state and federal agencies.
Operation End Game, which took “several months of planning” and was executed between Thursday and Saturday, was organized by the FBI, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Athens-Clarke County Police Department and the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia.
The arrestees, who range in age from 19 to 53, are accused of traveling from areas around northeast Georgia with the intent to meet a child for sex, a GBI news release said.
One arrestee was a convicted murderer who had completed his sentence, while another had firearms and a machete with him, the release said. Thirteen cellphones were seized as evidence during the operation.
According to the GBI, the goal of Operation End Game was to arrest child predators and target “those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor.” During the course of the operation, investigators had more than 200 exchanges with people on various social media or internet platforms.
“Many of those were exchanges in which the subject initiated contact with whom they believed to be a minor and directed the conversation towards sex,” the GBI said. “In some of those cases, the subject introduced obscene or lewd content, often exposing the (undercover agents) to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them. About half of the exchanges involved websites used for dating, socializing, or even websites used for classified advertisements.”
According to Commander of the ICAC Task Force and GBI Special Agent in Charge Debbie Garner, throughout the investigation, several men communicated with multiple investigators posing as minors, which “confirms what investigators uncover conducting these types of investigations: that many predators specifically seek out minors on such websites to groom them as potential victims for sexual contact.”
“This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them,” Garner said. “This successful operation was a true partnership between all the agencies involved. We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”
In addition to the agencies that planned the operation, 10 other departments participated, including the Alpharetta Police Department, Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, Floyd County Police Department, Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, GBI-Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center, Gwinnett County Police Department, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Lilburn Police Department, Polk County Police Department and the Savannah Police Department.
Those arrested were: Morgan Andrews, 27, of Maxeys; Joseph Kelly, 44, of Statham; James Morriss Jr., 49, of Dacula; Andrew Schafer, 53, of Winder; Deointe Sims, 25, of Athens; Fredrick Smith, 29, of Royston; Michael Turner, 46, of Covington; Zachary Turner, 19, of Colbert; and Noe Villafuerte, 44, of Winterville.