BRUNSWICK, Ga. – Eighteen men who thought they were going to meet children for sex in Glynn County instead met law enforcement officers, who arrested the men as part of sting targeting online predators.
The five-day child sex undercover operation was dubbed “Operation Riptide."
The 18 men arrested are charged with computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation. Additional charges could be added, officials said.
The investigation was coordinated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and the Glynn County Police Department.
“This type of thing is happening all over the country,” said GBI Special Agent in Charge Debbie Garner. “Our job as task force members is basically to protect our children and to keep these predators from getting access to our kids.”
Investigators said they began planning the sting in January and arrested the men over the last week, the latest one on Monday morning.
The men arrested ranged in age from 19 to 58. They traveled from areas around Brunswick and from North Florida with the intent to meet a child for sex, police said.
Some of their occupations include a Navy sailor, a pharmacy student, a commodities trader and a firefighter. Five are from Jacksonville, including Donald Sheffield -- a truck driver, Marine, husband and father.
“He’s just really sweet I'm just really shocked,” said Raquel Krusiewig, Sheffield's neighbor and friend. “He's a good guy, good neighbor. You have any problems, you go over there, he will help you if he can. He will mow your grass, fix your car. He's just a good guy, a good family man.”
Those arrested were:
“The children in our community need people to keep them safe. We will be their guardian angels. We will look out for them,” Glynn County Police Chief Matt Doering said.
The operation also targeted those who are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor, authorities said. Online 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, police said. The children the predators target are both boys and girls.
Along with the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center and the Glynn County Police Department, 18 additional law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices participated in “Operation Riptide” as members of the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. These agencies were: the Alpharetta Police Department, the Atlanta Police Department, the Brunswick Police Department, the Clayton County Police Department, the Cook County Sheriff’s Department, the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office, the DeKalb County Police Department, the Glynn County District Attorney’s Office, the Glynn County Sheriff’s Office, the Jasper County Sheriff’s Office, the Liberty County Sheriff’s Office, the McIntosh County Sheriff’s Office, the Polk County Police Department, the Warner Robins Police Department, the Woodstock Police Department, the U.S. Secret Service, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations.
“This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them,” Garner said. “This successful operation was a partnership between all the agencies involved.”
The U.S. Secret Service polygraphed eight of those arrested during Operation Riptide. All of those polygraphed gave admissions related to the offense for which they were arrested, police said.
Several of those arrested admitted to engaging in similar online activity in the past, police said.
Some admitted to viewing child pornography and to previous sexual contact with children.
Of the eight polygraphed, six were identified as previous victims of molestation.
“That's a hard thing for all of us to understand. Someone who is previously molested then goes and does the same thing to someone else,” Garner said. “It's a hard thing to understand, but that has definitely been a pattern.”
One offender arrived with drug-related items packaged for sale. Multiple phones and digital devices were also seized. Those devices will be processed and analyzed and additional charges may be filed after reviewing the results of that analysis, police said.
Officials said they hope these arrests encourage parents to be proactive and monitor what their children do online.
“One of the biggest rules is basically don't talk to anyone you don't know online,” Garner said.