Over 4 days, 20 North Georgia men arrested on child sexual exploitation charges

The 20 men arrested as part of Operation Paladin.

Credit: Bartow County Sheriff's Office / Graphic by Channel 2 Action News

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The 20 men arrested as part of Operation Paladin.

Credit: Bartow County Sheriff's Office / Graphic by Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Bartow County Sheriff's Office / Graphic by Channel 2 Action News

Twenty men ranging in age from 20 to 59 were arrested over the past four days on charges that they tried to communicate with children online in the hopes of meeting them for sex, the GBI announced Monday.

The four-day operation, dubbed “Operation Paladin,” took several months of planning, the GBI said in a statement. Investigators “had more than 200 exchanges with subjects on various social media or internet platforms,” where the subjects believed they were talking to children, authorities said.

The suspects held a variety of occupations, including a nursing assistant, electrician and painter.

MORE: GBI charges 34 in Georgia, 76 overall in child exploitation crackdown

“In some of those cases, the subject introduced obscene or lewd content, often exposing the minor (undercover) to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them,” the statement said.

The suspects allegedly traveled around North Georgia intending to meet a child for sexual purposes.

Those arrested were charged with human trafficking for labor sexual servitude, and/or under the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007, investigators said.

During the arrests, which began last Thursday and continued through Sunday, multiple suspects were allegedly found in possession of illegal drugs. One had a gun, the GBI said. Twenty-four cellphones were seized.

RELATED: Gwinnett child sex sting was largest in GBI task force's history

A dozen law enforcement agencies worked together on the operation.

“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.

According to the GBI, the suspects arrested were: Randall Ball, 25, of Acworth; Bailey Brown, 20, of Jasper; Richard Brown, 53, of Trion; Steven Byers, 33, of Jasper; Bryan Cain, 36, of Calhoun; Shawn Jeffrey, 26, of Powder Springs; Clarence Mann, 59, of Kingston; Rick Paul, 25, of Dallas; Isaac Sanchez, 20, of Summerville; Thomas Smith, 43, of Rome; Conner Thrash, 28, of Woodstock; and Michael Turner, 37, of Villa Rica.

The following suspects were all from Cartersville: Jeffrey Coleman, 52; Michael Crider, 51; Daniel Dorough, 56; Daniel Ewart, 38; Venale Mascall, 25; Charlie Smith III, 45; Timothy Smith, 57; and Michael Wills, 34.

In other news:

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Sutton Tennyson, 37, was shot and killed inside a garage shortly before 5 p.m. Saturday, Atlanta police said.

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