An undercover four day operation centered in Bartow County — dubbed “Paladin” — netted the arrest of 20 men over a four day period.
The operation took several months of planning, a GBI press release stated, and several of the men — including one registered sex offender —traveled from areas around Northwest Georgia with the intent to meet a child for sex.
“Over the course of the operation, over 30 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest,” the release stated. “Twenty of those cases were concluded with arrests.”
Several subjects communicated simultaneously with multiple investigators posing as minors. Twenty-four mobile phones, suspected illegal drugs and at least one firearm were seized as evidence during the operation.
The following were arrested and charged in Bartow County as part of “Operation Paladin”:
- Randall Ball, 25, of Acworth, grocery stocker
- Bailey Brown, 29, of Jasper, emergency home repair responder
- Richard Brown, 53, of Trion, mill worker
- Steven Byers, 33, of Jasper, electrician
- Bryan Cain, 36, of Calhoun, unemployed/college student
- Jeffrey Coleman, 52, of Cartersville, glass technician
- Michael Crider, 51, of Cartersville, CAD operator
- Daniel Dorough, 56, of Cartersville, self-employed landscaper
- Daniel Ewart, 38, of Cartersville, tow truck driver
- Shawn Jeffrey, 26, of Powder Springs, pest control technician
- Clarence Mann, 59, of Kingston, truck driver
- Vernale Mascall, 25, of Cartersville, fast food worker
- Rick Paul, 25, of Dallas, Certified Nursing Assistant
- Isaac Sanchez, 20, of Summerville, painter
- Charlie Smith III, 45, Cartersville, patient care technician
- Thomas Smith, 43, of Rome, delivery driver
- Timothy Smith, 57, of Cartersville, customer service
- Conner Thrash, 28, of Woodstock, truck driver
- Michael Turner, 37, of Villa Rica, unemployed
- Michael Wills, 34, of Cartersville, tree service employee
Those arrested are charged computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation prevention act of 2007 and/or trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude. Many may face additional charges.
Since 2014, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has arrested over 100 people in similar operations — the majority of which take place on various social media or internet platforms. About half of the 200-plus exchanges involved websites used for dating, socializing, or even websites used for classified advertisements.
“This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them,” ICAC Commander Debbie Garner said.
The task force is comprised of 23-plus local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutor’s offices.
“This operation is a prime example of interagency planning and cooperation,” Bartow County Sheriff Clark Millsap stated. “I am proud that we were able to host the Georgia ICAC Task Force at our facility to carry it out.”