Two local men were arrested last week on charges that they attempted to meet underage girls for sex after chatting with them online.
Douglas Shontz, 63, of Pooler was arrested Feb. 24 and Kevin Horton, 24, of Springfield was arrested Thursday. Both were charged with criminal attempt to commit child molestation after they each arrived at a location where they thought they were meeting a minor for sex.
“Both individuals were having online conversations with people they thought were underage children,” said Effingham County Sheriff’s Office spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor.
“We didn’t go to them,” Ehsanipoor continued. “These are people who sought out children on the Internet, started a conversation and made an overt act into meeting who they thought was an underage child for sexual activity.”
Also, an investigator with the ECSO’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force participated in a four-day sting that netted 14 arrests in the Atlanta area.
“We’re all here for the same purpose, which is to protect the children,” Ehsanipoor said.
Shontz went to a Highway 80 gas station, according to investigators, but was met by ECSO deputies instead of an underage girl. The same happened Thursday when Horton went to Baker Pond in Springfield, according to Ehsanipoor.
Along with the criminal attempt to commit child molestation charge, Horton was charged with sexual exploitation and furnishing obscene materials to a minor because he sent “provocative” photos of himself over the Internet to the “girl” he believed he was chatting with, Ehsanipoor said.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office was among the 37 law enforcement agencies and prosecutors to participate in “Operation Broken Heart,” along with the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit and the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center.
The four-day operation, centered in DeKalb County, caught 14 people who traveled from different areas of northern Georgia with the intent to meet a child for sex, Ehsanipoor said. Those arrested ranged in age from 21-64.
The people arrested and charged in “Operation Broken Heart” included an elementary school principal, John McGill, 56, of Villa Rica; an engineer, Choon Hong David Tan, 52, of Johns Creek; a vice president of an ambulance service, J.B. Owen, 58, of Canton; a culinary business manager, Marc Matthew Peterson, 38, of Acworth; and a software developer, Cheney Li, 22, of Atlanta.
Also arrested were Kahsi Butler, 31, of Conyers; Fred Gregory Chatham, 64, of Griffin; Benjamin Hopson, 21, of Lithonia; John Benjamin Katz, 29, of Fairburn; Tiana Cousteau Reese, 38, of College Park; Tracy Antonio Solomon, 50, of Stockbridge; Richard Roger Tumlin, 49, of Winder; and Kenneth Walker, 48, of Winder.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office works with other law enforcement agencies in the Georgia Internet Crimes against Children Task Force to catch offenders who use the Internet, online communications systems or other computer technology to sexually exploit children. The local, state and federal agencies in the ICAC share information with each other and partner in operations such as “Operation Broken Heart.”
“The good thing about this specific task force,” Ehsanipoor said, “is that this is a problem not just here, but throughout the state and throughout the country. Down the road, there will be other stings across Georgia.”