Seven Effingham County residents were among 39 men arrested in a 10-week online sex sting investigation – Operation Summer Heat - that ended last week.
“The Effingham Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Unit went hunting for individuals that would target our children for sexual exploitation,” said Effingham County Sheriff’s Office Inv. Joe Heath, who posed as both male and female juveniles during the operation.
The seven Effingham County men caught in the net were Aaron Green, 26, Guyton; Adam Alewine, 36, Rincon; Alexander Belanowich, 49, Guyton; Sean Iwan, 21, Rincon; Jonathan Purcell, 35, Rincon; Kevin Hollingsworth, 30, Guyton and Matthew Wilkison, 23, Rincon.
Working with the Chatham County Sheriff’s Office, the Effingham Sheriff’s Office Internet Crimes Against Children Unit took advantage of the summer break from school, with Heath posing as underage children online. When the suspects solicited sex from the undercover agent, believing them to be juveniles, and arranged to meet with the supposed children, they were arrested, he said.
“Some offenders had to be wrestled…..some had to be chased, but in the end all the offenders ended up in the Effingham County Jail,” he said in a released statement. “This operation was designed to send a clear message from both Effingham County Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie and Chatham County Sheriff Johnny Wilcher, that individuals who target our children for their own purposes will not be tolerated in Effingham or Chatham County.”
He said it was the first time he ever used the male persona to catch online sex offense suspects,
“In regards to Operation Summer Heat, I was the investigator conducting the chats.... I assumed the persona of both male and female minors ranging in age of 13-15 years old,” he said. “For me personally, this was the first time I used the male persona which was highly productive. I believe this is due to the fact that females have typically been thought of as the victim of these types of crimes and easier to work; however it’s important to remember that all children need to be protected regardless of gender.”
The number of arrests in this sting were higher than in similar operations in the past. “This is primarily because these operations are extremely important to Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie, and for this 10-week period he allowed me to suspend all of my normal duties and concentrate primarily on this operation,” Heath said.
Thirty-seven of those arrested were over 18. Two were 17, and their photographs were not release due to their ages, he said.
All the offenders were charged under Georgia law – criminal attempt to commit a felony/ child molestation, he said.
Others arrested included Christopher Carroll, 57, Rock Hill, SC; Deonte Brown, 21, Pt. Wentworth; Douglas Smith, 33, Seabrook, SC; Henry Williams, 46, Bloomingdale; Jacob Laport, 25, Alto; James Cheek, 35, Hawkinsville; Johnathan Baker, 26, Savannah; Joseph Fountain, 37, Savannah; Joshua Garner, 21, Pooler; Lloyd Wray, 41, Hinesville.
Also, Matthew Long, 30, Hinesville; Odrae Barrett, 26, Pt. Wentworth; Rakeem Scott, 23, Savannah; Randy Murphy, 29, Savannah; Robben Sims, 31, Savannah; Thomas Hughes, 45, Pooler.
Yet more arrests included Trenton Carter, 42, Bluffton, SC; Willian Fischer, 24, Pooler; William Gobbs, 52, Bloomingdale; Andra Keye, 32, Pt, Wentworth; Brian Jones,35, Evans; Calvin Olive, 39, Garden City; and Chad Nephew, 23, Hinesville.
Also arrested were Travis Butterbaugh, 31, Claxton; Chadwick Boyd, 24, Sylvania; Gregory Jackson, 48, Newington; Johnathan Perkins, 25, Ellabell; Joseph Williams, 31, Statesboro; Paul Hudson, 49, Statesboro; and Renato Ramos, 22, Swainsboro.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office is an affiliate member of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The GBI offers training and support to agencies across the state. All in an effort to end the victimization of our children in the state of Georgia, Heath said.