31 arrested in Georgia as part of huge child-exploitation ring

A multi-state operation targeting people involved in child pornography and those who sexually exploit children netted 31 arrests in Georgia, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation announced Friday.

Called Operation Southern Impact III, law enforcement agencies in eight states arrested a total of 82 people, and rescued or identified 17 children as victims.

Ten task forces that focus on internet crimes against children spent four months planning the operation, which led to three days of actions including executing search warrants, undercover operations, arrests and sex offense compliance verification visits.

A total of 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies in Georgia, Alabama, Florida, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia took part in the operation.

The arrestees ranged in age from 20 to 70. Some of their occupations included nonprofit 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 states. More than 1,600 digital devices were seized. 

In Georgia, 31 people were arrested during Operation Southern Impact III.  Most of those arrests involved the possession and/or distribution of child pornography.

Debbie Garner, special agent in charge of the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, said “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 of those arrested in Georgia traveled for the purpose of meeting and having sex with a minor. 

During the operation, four registered sex offenders were arrested in Georgia on charges related to child pornography. One of them also had been arrested by the GBI during a similar operation in 2015.