Gwinnett County authorities arrested 23 men, including a member of the U.S. Air Force, connected to an underage sex sting, GBI officials said Monday.
The arrests were made within the past five days.
The men, officials said, pretended to be teenagers online to lure minors and have sex with them in exchange for money. Most of the men are from the metro Atlanta area, including 14 from Gwinnett, and are believed to be between 19 and 48 years old, GBI spokeswoman Nelly Miles said.
Professional “chatters” posing as 13- and 14-year-old children posted profiles and ads “looking for a good time” on dating websites and sites like Backpage.com, a classified ad site that has been accused of facilitating prostitution and human trafficking, Gwinnett Det. David Smith 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,” Miles said.
The men’s professions include electrician, construction worker, retail employee, mechanic, hotel employee and janitor. One man arrested, Edward Harold Ramsey, 24, of Wichita, Kan., is a member of the Air Force.
Some of the chatters engaged with the suspects over a few days, and others spent weeks talking to the men, Smith said.
All of the suspects were arrested at a home or a “second location,” both in Gwinnett, where they believed they would be meeting a child for sex. Gwinnett police did not disclose the specific locations of either place.
None of the 23 suspects has previous charges or reports of sexual offenses, but police are continuing to look into their backgrounds to determine if they have previously abused children, Smith said. Some of the suspects have children of their own and some worked in places where they would frequently have contact with children, like malls, Smith said.
Most of those arrested were charged with sexual exploitation of a minor, and many were charged with child molestation. Under Georgia law, you can be charged with child molestation without touching a minor, but intending to commit the act. Those who offered to pay for sex with a child have also been charged with human trafficking, Smith said.
The investigation is part of the GBI’s “Operation Spring Cleaning” in partnership with the Gwinnett County Police Department and the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC).
Since 2014, the Georgia ICAC has arrested 77 people in similar operations. Since its inception in 2002, the organization has made more than 2,000 arrests.
Those arrested in the sting:
Scott Robert Baxter, 34, Tucker
Andrew Sean Carroll, 19, Dacula
Brian Dwayne Clark, 41, Winder
Alisha Gagguturu, 23, Suwanee
Connor Fionn Hale, 23, Lawrenceville
Demetrius Deshawn Harper, 22, Lawrenceville
Joel Blake Jackson, 22, Braselton
Rasesh Jagtap, 33, Alpharetta
Akshat Jasra, 35, Alpharetta
David Kelley, 22, College Park
Steven Anthony King, 26, Clarksville
Horacio Mendoza, 28, Lawrenceville
Andrew Ryan Murphy, 22, Norcross
Max Park, 37, Suwanee
Edward Harold Ramsey, 24, Wichita, Kan.
Melchior Simon, 28, Duluth
Martinez-Torres Sixto, 30, Norcross
Brett William Smith Jr., 35, no city listed
Zadok Smith, 27, Duluth
James Evan Soggs, 20, Sandy Springs
Adis Spahic, 40, Lawrenceville
Ertiza Talukder, 23, Lawrenceville
William David Warren, 41, Winder
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