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14, including Valdosta State University dean, arrested in child porn sting

Dr. Keith Walters was listed as VSU's dean of the College of Science and Mathematics on the university's website. It has since been removed. (Source: Valdosta State University)
Dr. Keith Walters was listed as VSU's dean of the College of Science and Mathematics on the university's website. It has since been removed. (Source: Valdosta State University)(WRDW)
Published: Feb. 10, 2020 at 1:49 PM EST
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Monday, Feb. 10, 2020

VALDOSTA, Ga. (WALB) - Fourteen men, including a Valdosta State University dean, were arrested as a result of a Lowndes County sting called “Operation Broken Arrow.”

As 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, the 14 men were arrested over a four-day period that started Thursday.

The following were arrested and charged in Lowndes County as part of the sting:

- Dave Vincent Almon, 43, retail manager

- Billy Stephen Carter, 57, truck driver

- Eric Bernard Copeland, press operator

- Walter Lee Curry, 33, laborer

- Jamian Hogan, 34, retail associate

- John Henry Hursey, 45, carpenter

- Eugene Andega Mainah, 35, unemployed

- Keith Morrison, 43, truck driver

- Wyman Rene Phillips, 36, electrician

- Wilford Sermons, 28, customer service representative

- Josue Trejo, 31, forklift driver

- Bronson Jamari D. Tripp, 24, retail associate

- Keith Walters, 44, Valdosta State University dean of College of Science and Mathematics.

- Justin Na’eem Warren, 24, student

Walters was listed as the dean for one of VSU’s colleges, but it has since been removed. On Monday, VSU issued this statement:

“Valdosta State University has placed Keith Walters on immediate administrative leave pending the outcome of internal and law enforcement investigations into these very disturbing allegations. VSU remains committed to assisting law enforcement’s investigation in any way.”

Those arrested were charged with computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation and/or trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude and additional charges could happen, according to the GBI.

The GBI said “Operation Broken Arrow” was a four-day proactive effort centered in Valdosta.

The operation took several months of planning.

The arrestees, ranging in age from 24 to 57, traveled from areas around South Georgia with the intent to meet a child for sex, according to the GBI. Every individual arrested during the operation believed they were going to a location to meet with a child and engage in prearranged sex acts.

The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children 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, the GBI said.

Two others were arrested in possession of a firearm and two more 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 those who communicate with children online and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex, according to the GBI. The operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor.

The GBI said the children targeted were both boys and girls.

Over the course of the operation, investigators had more than 120 exchanges with people on various social media or internet platforms. During many of these exchanges, the subjects directed conversations towards sex with those they believed to be minors. Over 40 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest, according to the GBI.

In some of these cases, the subject introduced obscene or lude 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, the GBI said.

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,” the GBI said in a press release.

Along with those agencies who participated in the planning and coordinating of the operation, 16 additional law enforcement agencies participated in “Operation Broken Arrow” as members of the Georgia ICAC Task Force.

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," Ashley Paulk, Lowndes County sheriff, said. "Thanks to this coordinated four-day effort, multiple predators have been removed from our streets and are no longer free to victimize our children.”

“The Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office is one of our most active member agencies. We appreciate their daily efforts to combat child exploitation," Debbie Garner, Georgia ICAC task force commander, said. "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.”

Copyright 2020 WALB. All rights reserved.

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