Over a four-day period last week, 24 individuals were arrested by the Forsyth County Sherriff’s office and other law enforcement agencies during “Operation Just Cause,” an undercover Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force operation targeting suspected child predators that visit chat rooms and social media platforms to seduce children.
Authorities say that between Thursday, Sept. 5 and Sunday, Sept. 8, suspects ranging in age from 19 to 65, from Georgia, Tennessee, Kansas and Wisconsin were taken into custody after having sexually explicit communications with undercover investigators that they believed to be minors.
“The goal of ‘Operation Just Cause’ was to arrest persons who communicate with children online and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex,” a sheriff’s office press release stated on Thursday. “Additionally, the operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor.”
During the multi-day operation, investigators reportedly had numerous exchanges with suspects on various internet platforms. In many cases, suspects attempted to arrange a meeting with the “child” for sex, “often exposing the minor to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them.”
“Although some websites promote themselves as being for “adults-only” it is not uncommon for law enforcement to work cases in which children access these sites, establish profiles claiming to be older, and then find themselves vulnerable to victimization, harassment, blackmail or assault,” the release states.
In some cases, suspects in the operation were found communicating simultaneously with multiple investigators posing as minors.
“Such activity confirms what investigators uncover conducting these types of investigations: that many predators specifically seek out minors on such websites to groom them as potential victims for sexual contact,” the release states.
Forsyth County Sheriff Ron Freeman addressed members of the media at a press conference on Thursday, explaining how the operation played out, showing drone camera videos of some arrests, and releasing details about some of the suspects involved.
Freeman said that the arrests included two suspects that are registered sex offenders, one suspect that had pled guilty to statutory rape a week prior, a registered sex offender currently serving time in a Florida prison, and a man and woman that came to the county from Tennessee to have sex with a minor, bringing along their 2-year-old child.
"If you come to this county and think you are going to prey on our children, you have indeed picked the wrong county," Freeman said. "You've picked the wrong state if Georgia is where you want to be a child predator, because we will not stop coming after you until we have you behind bars."
The Individuals arrested in Operation Just Cause include:
· John Andrew Odell, 40, Cumming, truck driver
· Christopher Scott Taylor, 29, Cumming, construction
· Steven Charles Vinnenberg, 65, Cumming
· Erik Delgado, 26, Gainesville, sales associate
· Roger Kyle Nicholson, 44, Gainesville, unemployed
· Joseph Ryan Lisnock, 22, Gainesville, landscaper
· Jason Lee McIntyre, 35, Gainesville, supervisor
· Jimmy Webster Roy, 21, Gainesville, mover
· Robert Harley Martin, 38, Dahlonega, truck driver
· Austin Wayne Rhodes, 22, Alpharetta, mechanic
· Mahesh Kumar Saroj, 35, Alpharetta, information technology
· Dylan Blair Nessmith, 23, Johns Creek, mechanic
· Richard Edward Hazelwood, 49, Roswell, drug representative
· Rene Mauricio Posada; 29, Marietta, sales manager
· Anthony Christian Ceja, 23, Lawrenceville, laborer
· Kyle Alexander Williams, 32, Stone Mountain, landscaper
· Alan Thomas Bryant, 40, of Murrayville, unemployed
· Gavin Austen Peppers, 21, Bowman, hotel clerk
· Jackson Cain Butler, 20, Calhoun, sales
· Jacob Perry Yeamans, 61, Madison, Wisc.
· Michael Keith Coker, 29, Augusta State Prison, Fla., unemployed
· Johnathon Dale Butler, 25, Pall Mall, Tenn., unemployed
· Mackenzi Faye Stinson, 19, Pall Mall, Tenn., sales associate
· Daniel Dennis Rogan, 47, Witchita, Ky., vehicle Transporter
Suspects arrested in Operation Just Cause have been charged with a variety of different crimes including aggravated child molestation, computer crime: illegal solicitation, trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude, sexual exploitation of children and distribution of child pornography. The release states that additional charges may be filed later.
In his message to the public, Freeman also gave a chilling warning to parents that Operation Just Cause should be a wakeup call that there are real dangers online and being vigilant is the only solution.
"While these investigations are continuing, we wanted to take this opportunity to let this be a warning to parents," he said. "We hope parents take this to heed, you need to talk to your children about the dangers that are posed and what's lurking out there."
Authorities say that Operation Just Cause took several months of planning and involved the work of more than a dozen other law enforcement agencies including the Johns Creek Alpharetta Forsyth County Drug Task Force, Alpharetta Police Department, Cherokee County Sheriff’s Office, Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, Floyd County Police Department, Gwinnett County Police Department, Hall County Sheriff’s Office, Johns Creek Police Department, Lilburn Police Department, Roswell Police Department, Georgia Bureau of Investigations and the United States Department of Homeland Security.