Decatur, GA – As a result of a proactive undercover investigation coordinated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD), the United States Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Georgia, and the District Attorney’s Office of the Western Judicial Circuit, five (5) people were arrested in Athens, GA, over a two (2) day period beginning October 14, 2016. The operation targeted child predators that are willing to pay to have sex with a child. Those arrested were charged with O.C.G.A. 16-5-46, Trafficking of Persons for Labor or Sexual Servitude. Additional charges may be forthcoming.
All coordinating agencies are members of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and together planned this operation in Athens, GA to participate in a larger nationwide operation named Operation Cross County X. Operation Cross Country X was organized nationally by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
This operation centered in Athens, GA, took several months of planning. The arrestees, ranging in age from 22 to 66, traveled from areas around Athens with the intent to meet a child and pay for sex. Some of their occupations included chef, an airline employee, a delivery truck driver, and a student. Two of those arrested arrived with a gun. One of those arrested arrived with illegal drugs. One arrested arrived with alcohol for the minor. At least one of those arrested admitted to prior sexual contact with a minor.
The proactive on-line investigation was a coordinated effort amongst law enforcement agencies to combat this activity. Cooperation is always important in law enforcement, but it is never more important than when we set out to protect children. Along with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Athens-Clarke County Police Department (ACCPD), the United States Attorney’s Office of the Middle District of Georgia, and the District Attorney’s Office of the Western Judicial Circuit, the Clarke County Sheriff’s Office, and the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC) also assisted with and participated in the operation.
The focus of “Operation Cross Country” nationally was to recover underage victims of sex trafficking and to draw the public’s attention to the problem of sex trafficking at home and abroad. The operation in Athens, GA specifically targeted the demand side of child sex trafficking – those purchasing sex with children.
The following were arrested and charged in Clarke County as part of this operation:
Jennings B. Summerour, Jr., age 66, resides in Athens, GA, airline employee
Harold C. Williams, age 47, resides in Stephens, GA, delivery truck driver
Joshua P. Harkins, age 28, resides in Demorest, GA, chef
Randy E. Ash, age 35, resides in Winder, GA, food services manufacturer
Mohammed Nihal Patel, age 22, resides in Eatonton, GA, student
To link to the FBI information release on Operation Cross Country X click here: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/operation-cross-country-x.
The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of 215+ local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutors’ offices. The mission of the ICAC Task Force, created by the U. S. Department of Justice and managed and operated by the GBI in Georgia, is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This support encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, prevention and community education. The ICAC Program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims. By helping state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, the ICAC program delivers national resources at the local level.
The Georgia ICAC Task Force made 244 arrests in 2015. The GA ICAC TF received almost 3,000 tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in 2015 and worked 3,872 investigations related to child exploitation. The GA ICAC TF also conducted 391 Internet safety presentations.