17 men charged in South Carolina child sex sting operation

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South Carolina authorities arrested 17 men and another suspect remains at large following a monthlong investigation targeting adults who allegedly contacted children for sex, according to reports.

“We, along with the Lexington Police Department and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, served as the host agencies for this operation,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon told WOLO.

“Officers pretended to be underage teenagers as the suspects messaged them through apps,” Koon told the news outlet. “Some even had phone conversations with officers. After the suspect asked to meet with ‘the child,’ detectives were staged at a predetermined meeting spot to arrest them.”

Most of the messages exchanged with the suspects were sexually explicit and intended to “coerce someone they reasonably believed to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity,” Koons said, according to WOLO.

More than a dozen law enforcement agencies worked together in the investigation, and no children participated or were placed in danger, WOLO reported.

Lexington County officials identified the following individuals charged in connection with the operation, according to WOLO:

William Banks, 51, Liberty, South Carolina

Steven Bradley, 42, West Columbia

Darrin Bray, 40, Greenville, Illinois

Kevin Carpenter, 26, Evergreen, North Carolina

Brian Cates, 54, North Augusta, South Carolina

Geoffrey Dudding, 36, Charlotte

Mark Frick, 54, Gaston

Keair Fuewell, 23, Gloverville, South Carolina

Landon Gibson, 40, Simpsonville, South Carolina

Kane Hicks, 23, Darlington, South Carolina

Walter Huggins, 45, Camden, South Carolina

David Jones, 51, Pelion

Willie Manning, 57, Winnsboro, South Carolina

Joshua Paczowski, 21, Lexington

Misael Quezada, 31, Blythewood

Eric Setterberg, 54, Gadsden, South Carolina

Charles Templeton, 74, Gaston