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Justice News

Department of Justice
U.S. Attorney’s Office
Middle District of Georgia

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Tuesday, June 11, 2019

Task Force Protecting Children From Internet Sex Crimes In Georgia Arrests 81 Offenders During Operation "Broken Heart"

MACON – The Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in Georgia arrested 81 alleged offenders as part of a two-month, nationwide operation, announced Charles “Charlie” Peeler, the United States Attorney for the Middle District. The Department of Justice announced earlier today that almost 1,700 suspected online child sex offenders were arrested during Operation Broken Heart, a coordinated effort during the months of April and May 2019 between 61 ICAC task forces in America.

During the course of the operation, the task forces investigated more than 18,500 complaints of technology-facilitated crimes targeting children and delivered more than 2,150 presentations on internet safety to over 201,000 youth and adults. A significant portion of the total arrests (308 defendants) are alleged to have either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse. The task forces were able to identify 357 children who suffered recent, ongoing or historical sexual abuse or were exploited in the production of child pornography.

Georgia’s ICAC Task Force is housed within the Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACCU) at the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI). There are more than 240 local, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies that make up the Georgia ICAC Task Force. The mission of the ICAC Task Force is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement, child pornography and the commercial sexual exploitation of children. 

“Sexually exploiting children is pure evil, and our Office will continue to bring the full weight of our prosecutorial powers to ensure that offenders are brought to justice,” said Charlie Peeler, the U.S. Attorney. “To the victims of child exploitation: we support you and we will continue to target, arrest and prosecute those who have hurt you. I want to acknowledge the heroic efforts of Georgia’s ICAC Task Force members who are unwavering in their work to capture child sex predators and prevent the further exploitation of children. Thank you for protecting Georgia’s children.”

“The dedicated law enforcement professionals that are part of the Georgia ICAC Task Force will not cease searching for those who are producing, trading and collecting this graphic material – many of whom are also molesting children and causing them irreparable harm,” said Debbie Garner, the GBI Special Agent in Charge of the GBI’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit and Commander of the Georgia ICAC Task Force. “We will continue to work together to find, investigate and prosecute these predators. While the arrests made during the time frame encompassed by Operation Broken Heart represent phenomenal work, these are the types of investigations being worked every day by task force members across the state.”

The operation targeted suspects who: (1) produce, distribute, receive and possess child pornography; (2) engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; (3) engage in the sex trafficking of children; and (4) travel across state lines or to foreign countries and sexually abuse children. The ICAC Program is funded through the Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). In 1998, OJJDP launched the ICAC Task Force Program to help federal, state and local law enforcement agencies enhance their investigative responses to offenders who use the internet, online communication systems or computer technology to exploit children. To date, ICAC task forces have reviewed more than 922,000 complaints of child exploitation, which have resulted in the arrest of more than 95,500 individuals. In addition, since the ICAC program's inception, more than 708,500 law enforcement officers, prosecutors and other professionals have been trained on techniques to investigate and prosecute ICAC-related cases.

Those arrested are presumed innocent unless and until convicted beyond a reasonable doubt in a court of law. 

Questions concerning this case can be directed to Pamela Lightsey, Public Information Officer, United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 621-2603 or Melissa Hodges, Public Affairs Director (Contractor), United States Attorney’s Office, at (478) 765-2362.

Topic(s): 
Project Safe Childhood
Component(s): 
Updated June 12, 2019