VALDOSTA, Ga. (CBS46) -- An online undercover investigation targeting child predators ended with the arrest of 14 people, including Keith Walters, 44, a Dean at Valdosta State University. His bio has been removed from the University's website.
"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," read a statement from from the university after learning of Walters arrest.
The other men arrested in the sting known as "Operation Broken Arrow" were: Dave Vincent Almon, 43; Billy Stephen Carter, 57; Eric Bernard Copeland; Walter Lee Curry, 33; Jamian Hogan, 34; John Henry Hursey, 45; Eugene Andega Mainah, 35; Keith Morrison, 43; Wyman Rene Phillips, 36; Wilford Sermons, 28; Josue Trejo, 31; Bronson Jamari D. Tripp, 24 and Justin Na’eem Warren, 24.
Investigators said the four-day operation started on Feb. 6 and focused on the Valdosta area. Those arrested were charged with computer or electronic pornography, child exploitation and trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude. Additional charges and arrests are still possible.
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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 spent months planning and preparing for the sting.
Arrestees, ranging in age from 24 to 57, traveled from areas around South Georgia with the intent of meeting a child for sex. Investigators say each person arrested did believe that they were going to a specific location to meet with a child and engage in prearranged sex acts.
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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. 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.
19 cell phones and several other electronic devices were also seized as evidence.
“Operation Broken Arrow” also focused on those who were looking to purchase sex with a minor. Investigators add that 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. Along with those agencies who planned “Operation Broken Arrow,” the following 16 additional law enforcement agencies participated:
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 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,” said Lowndes County Sheriff Ashley Paulk.