Trinity Mount Ministries

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

VSU Dean Among 14 Arrested for Child Sex Offenses

VALDOSTA, Ga. – On Monday, February 10, 2020, a press conference was held at the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office to address “Operation Broken Arrow,” a multi-agency child sex crimes investigation.

Fourteen people were arrested over a four-day period beginning Thursday, Feb. 6, including 44-year-old Valdosta State University’s College of Science and Mathematics Dean, Keith Walters, 44.

Walters came to Valdosta in January 2019 from Northern Kentucky University where he served as the chair of the chemistry department for seven years, according to an article in VSU Spectator. Walters position was created when the newly created college of Science and Mathematics resulted from the decision to split the College of Arts and Sciences into two.

On VSU’s website Walter’s name has already been removed.

Today Walters, along with 13 others, is being held in the Lowndes County Jail is a result of a proactive online undercover investigation coordinated by the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, and the Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

Lindsay Marchant, Assistant Commander of the GBI Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, was in Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk’s office on Monday answering questions from the media about “Operation Broken Arrow.”

“Lowndes County is one of the most active ICAC affiliates,” Marchant said. “We had numerous contacts…about 120 contacts, and 14 that actually traveled.”

Marchant said these incidents were done on common apps, ones that are familiar to everyone, and none on the “dark web,” where child porn rings have been known to proliferate. When Marchant was asked which apps they were, she responded, “I’m not going to name all the applications but they’re the most popular ones that are out there right now.”

Marchant said that this particular operation had nothing to do with younger children who have been involved in child porn rings in the area.

ICAC Assistant Commander Lindsay Marchant at LCSO press conference
Marchant had little to say about the investigation, other than parents should be aware what their children are doing and to advise their children not to be trusting of just anyone they communicate with on the various popular social media apps targeted by predators.

Today VSU’s Walters, along with 13 others, are being held in the Lowndes County Jail as a result of a “proactive online undercover investigation,” as Marchant referred to it, that involved a total of 18 agencies, that included Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office, and the Southern Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s Office.

The ages of the victims were 13-14 years of age, and the oldest of the offenders was 57.

“We do not go fishing for these people,” Marchant added. “They come to the apps and through our undercover operation 14 have been arrested, between the ages of 24-57.”

Marchant added that a couple were re-offenders and a majority had criminal histories.

Lowndes Co. Sheriff Ashley Paulk was pleased with the outcome of Operation Broken Arrow: “We’ve had several human trafficking cases we’ve made in the last 6-8 months. We know there’s a problem out there,” Sheriff Ashley Paulk said during Monday’s press conference (listen to full interview in above video). “I’m glad that the Governor’s wife (Marty Kemp) has helped get more personnel for the GBI and more funding…I was very excited about the operation. We’ve always had a good relationship with them (ICAC)…they work great with us. It was very fruitful, getting 14 people off the streets…the furthest one away was from Douglas, and we had one from South Carolina who was working here. I don’t care where they come from, as long as we get them away from our children…I’ve got five children and they’re grown but they’ve got children. It’s a bad situation. Something that really needs to be looked at. I look forward to working with them on some more cases.”

Each was charged with O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 and/or O.C.G.A 16-5-46, Trafficking of Persons for Labor or Sexual Servitude. Additional charges and arrests may be forthcoming.

Operation Broken Arrow took several months of planning and every offender arrested believe they were going to a location to meet with a child and engage in prearranged sex acts.

The Georgia ICAC Task Force had previously received information from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children on at least one person who was arrested during Operation Broken Arrow. That same person had been previously arrested on peeping tom charges. Two persons were arrested in possession of a firearm and two persons were arrested in possession of illegal narcotics. At least two other arrestees were investigated for sex related crimes in the past. Nineteen mobile devices and several additional electronic devices were seized as evidence during the operation.

The goal of “Operation Broken Arrow” was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex. Additionally, the operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor. On-line child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. The children these predators target are both boys and girls. Since 2014, the Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested over 150 people in similar operations.

Over the course of the operation, investigators had more than 120 exchanges with persons on various social media or internet platforms. During many of these exchanges, the subjects directed conversations towards sex with persons they believed to be minors. Over 40 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest. Fourteen of those cases were concluded with arrests. In some of these cases, the subject introduced obscene or lewd content, often exposing the minor to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them. About half of the exchanges involved websites used for dating, socializing, or even websites used for classified advertisements.

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. Several subjects were identified as 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.

Along with those agencies who participated in the planning and coordinating of the operation, sixteen additional law enforcement agencies participated in “Operation Broken Arrow” as members of the Georgia ICAC Task Force. These agencies were:

Alpharetta Police Department
Atlanta Police Department
Floyd County Police Department
Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office
GBI-Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC)
Glynn County Police Department
Gwinnett County Police Department
Hall County Sheriff’s Office
Homeland Security Investigations
Johns Creek Police Department
Lilburn Police Department
Marietta Police Department
Polk County Police Department
Savannah Police Department
United States Air Force – Office of Special Investigations
Woodstock Police Department

The proactive online investigation was a coordinated effort among the participating law enforcement agencies to combat this activity. Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk stated, “the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is proud to partner with the GBI and other federal, state, and local area law enforcement agencies in these continuing efforts to identify and apprehend those who prey on our most vulnerable victims. Thanks to this coordinated four-day effort, multiple predators have been removed from our streets and are no longer free to victimize our children.”

GBI Special Agent in Charge, and Commander of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, Debbie Garner remarked “The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is one of our most active member agencies. We appreciate their daily efforts to combat child exploitation. This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them. This successful operation was a true partnership between all the agencies involved. We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”

The following were arrested and charged in Lowndes County as part of “Operation Broken Arrow”:

Dave Vincent Almon, W/M, 43, retail manager
Billy Stephen Carter, W/M, 57, truck driver
Eric Bernard Copeland, B/M, press operator
Walter Lee Curry, B/M, 33, laborer
Jamian Hogan, B/M, 34, retail associate
John Henry Hursey, W/M, 45, carpenter
Eugene Andega Mainah, B/M, 35, unemployed
Keith Morrison, B/M, 43, truck driver
Wyman Rene Phillips, W/M, 36, electrician
Wilford Sermons, B/M, 28, customer service representative
Josue Trejo, H/M, 31, forklift driver
Bronson Jamari D. Tripp, B/M, 24, retail associate, Keith Walters, W/M, 44, university Dean Justin Na’eem Warren, B/M, 24, student

The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of 240+ local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutor’s 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. Arrests made by the Georgia ICAC Task Force have been steadily increasing over the last 3 years.

In 2017, The Georgia ICAC Task Force made 350 arrests. In 2018, The Georgia ICAC Task Force made 307 arrests. In 2019, the Georgia ICAC Task Force made 474 arrests. The Georgia ICAC Task Force has made over 2,000 arrests since its inception in 2002.

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