Two men were arrested for attempting to meet children for sex and three others were jailed on child pornography charges in a four-month investigation by the Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.
Dubbed Operation “Broken Candy,” the summer-long operation targeting people trying to meet children for sex or downloading and sharing child pornography began in May as children went on summer break.
"It's hard to say (this type of crime) increases once school gets out, but it's something we're more concerned about over the summer," said ECSO spokesman Detective David Ehsanipoor. "Children are out of school, and we feel it could be more likely over the summer."
Two of the five people arrested traveled to Effingham County with the intention of meeting a child for sex, according to the ECSO.
Aaron Kreh, 36, of Savannah thought he was going to meet a child June 30 but instead was met by Effingham County Sheriff’s investigators after he expressed the desire to have sex with a small child, Ehsanipoor said.
The same scenario played out July 4 for Merle Singletary, 42, who traveled to Effingham from North Charleston, S.C.
“During this investigation, Singletary expressed the desire to have sex with small children and also commit the crime of incest,” Ehsanipoor said.
Kreh and Singletary both were charged with criminal attempt to commit child molestation.
In addition, three other men were arrested on charges of downloading and sharing child pornography.
David May, 59, of Bloomingdale, Arterrius Smith, 31, of Statesboro, and Richard Krohn, 40, of Guyton, were arrested at their residences following search warrants conducted by ECSO investigators. All three were charged with sexual exploitation of children.
“When we target those who share child pornography online, we routinely uncover offenders who are sexually abusing children or stalking them,” Ehsanipoor said. “That is why these operations are so critical. Viewing these vile images is a serious crime in itself, because it motivates those who sexually exploit children to create child pornography and it re-victimizes the children involved. It can also be a strong indicator that we are dealing with a child predator.”
May was charged in June with three counts of sexually explicit conduct of a minor. He was found in possession of videos and images of children as young as 6, according to Ehsanipoor.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office also has participated in about a dozen additional arrests assisting other agencies, including the FBI and Georgia Bureau of Investigation.