Sheriff's department employee arrested in multi-state child exploitation operation

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One of the 31 people arrested in Georgia in a multi-state operation targeting suspects allegedly involved in child pornography or who sexually exploited children worked in a law enforcement agency, FOX 5 Atlanta learned Monday.

Jackson County Sheriff Janis Mangum identified the suspect as Carol Chellew, who has worked as a civilian clerk in the Sheriff’s Office since January 2018.

According to a news release, Sheriff Mangum was notified on Tuesday, April 30, that officers from the Jefferson Police Department and agents from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation were conducting a search warrant at Chellew’s home in Jefferson.

According to the sheriff, she later received a second phone call from Jefferson Police Chief Joseph Wirthman advising her that Chellew and her husband were being arrested on charges of sexual exploitation of children.

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

Mangum said she began termination proceedings against Chellew after learning of her arrest.

According to the news release, Chellew bonded out of the Jackson County Jail on Thursday, May 2, on 15 counts of possession or control of any material depicting minors in sexually explicit conduct.

Chief Wirthman will hold a news conference at noon Monday to discuss the Jefferson Police Department’s involvement in Operation Southern Impact III.

In the operation, 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 allegedly 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.