A total of 76 people were arrested, and 13 children were rescued or identified as victims during an operation between eight southeastern states including North Carolina.
The effort, named Operation Southern Impact II, was coordinated by nine task forces in those eight states and focused on persons who distribute child pornography and who are sexually exploiting children in other ways using technology and the internet.
The four-month planning process culminated in two days of investigative actions to include search warrant executions, undercover operations, and arrests in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
The suspects ranged in age from 17 to 73.
Some of their occupations included postal worker, non-profit employee, small business owner, store clerk, mechanic, daycare administrator, pastor, construction worker and magician.
North Carolina’s contribution to the overall operation included 27 search warrants, 56 knock and talks, 190 digital devices seized along with 178 DVD’s/CD’s.
Eight North Carolina men were arrested and eight children were rescued/removed from abusive situations.
A 17-year-old Canadian girl recently received nude photos of herself from an anonymous Snapchat user, who demanded more nude photographs.
The girl recognized the photos as some that she had taken and sent to a boyfriend at age 14. She was under the impression at the time that the photos had been deleted by the boyfriend.
The girl reported the sextortion attempt to Ontario law enforcement who tracked the cyber stalker to Rowan County.
Rowan County Deputies assisted in locating a 21-year-old male who admitted to his attempts to extort the girl to produce more photos. Charges are pending review by the U.S. Attorney’s Office.
Acting on a Cybertip about a child in danger, police officers in Monroe executed a search warrant at a house where they found a 7-year-old girl in an abusive situation.
The girl was removed from the home by the Department of Social Services. The investigation is ongoing and the child is now safe.
North Carolina law enforcement arrested Juan Alberto Juarez Saravia, 35, an undocumented immigrant from El Salvador who worked as a traveling pastor in the Hispanic community in the Durham area.
Saravia admitted to using a fake Facebook account to entice a 14-year-old Virginia girl into sending him sexually-explicit videos of herself.
He is currently in the Durham County jail, charged with first degree sexual exploitation of a minor, second degree sexual exploitation of a minor, and indecent liberties with a child.
Saravia is being held on a $750,000 bond, and the investigation is ongoing due to evidence indicating there may be more minor victims.
Agents are especially concerned that Juarez Saravia may have victims who are also undocumented immigrants and thus less likely to report the crimes committed against them.
North Carolina law enforcement arrested Richard Wayne Bell, 73, of Moyock, NC, for child pornography offenses. Bell was a church deacon and served as an administrator in a church daycare program.
Macon County Sheriff’s Detectives seized property from a 36-year-old man accused of hands-on sexual offenses against as many as five children. The crimes allegedly took place in North Carolina and multiple other states due to the man’s travel as a construction worker. Investigation is ongoing.
Cherokee County Sheriff’s Detectives arrested a 37-year-old registered sex offender who had failed to report an address change when he moved to a residence 290 feet from a local high school. Additional information indicated that the man was utilizing minor females to traffic drugs. Investigation is ongoing.
Guilford County Sheriff’s Detectives examined digital devices seized from a registered sex offender who was working as a magician. Evidence of child pornography was located. The investigation is ongoing.
The Boone Police Department, Cabarrus County Sheriff’s Office, Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Department, Concord Police Department, Gaston County Sheriff’s Office, Gastonia Police Department, Charlotte, Homeland Security Investigations, Rowan County Sheriff’s Office, and Watauga County Sheriff’s Office all took part in the operation.