Multi-State, Multi-Agency Investigation Results in Four Federally Charged in Child Sex Trafficking and Child Exploitation Case
Columbia, South Carolina --- Acting United States Attorney M. Rhett DeHart announced today that four individuals have been charged by a federal grand jury in a 13-count indictment for their respective roles in alleged child sex trafficking, production of child pornography, and coercion and enticement of a minor. The case involves activity spanning from Arizona to South Carolina, and victims from the Pee Dee and Midlands regions of South Carolina.
Specifically, Hart William Grow, 25, of Surprise, Arizona, has been charged with conspiracy to sexually traffic a minor, sexual trafficking of minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor, four counts of production of child pornography involving two victims, four counts of coercion and enticement of a minor involving two victims, and possession of child pornography.
Theodore Woolings Bye, III, 36, of Myrtle Beach, has been charged with conspiracy to sexually traffic a minor, sexual trafficking of minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor, two counts of production of child pornography, two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, and possession of child pornography.
Sanadin Mohamed Elrayes, 28, of Surfside Beach, and Charles Joseph Spillane, 44, of Myrtle Beach, have both been charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor.
The indictment alleges that, since at least April 2020, Grow and Bye conspired to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize, and solicit a minor victim in South Carolina to engage in a commercial sex act.
The record in the case alleges that Grow, from his home in Arizona and through the internet, misrepresented to various minors across the country that he was also a minor and was interested in a relationship. In this case, Grow allegedly claimed to a minor victim that he was a 17-year-old female named “Hannah” living in Columbia, South Carolina.
Using this false persona and promising love and affection, Grow groomed the minor victim to fall in love with “Hannah.” It was then, the indictment alleges, that Grow abused his position of trust with the minor victim to enter into a sexual dominant/submissive relationship, to hold absolute power and control over the victim, and to employ bondage/discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism (“BDSM”) techniques. Threatening the minor victim if the victim did not obey his BDSM rules, Grow required the victim to engage in often-violent sexual acts with adult men that the victim did not otherwise wish to engage with.
According to Court records, Grow used message boards and social media to make his minor victim available to adult males for sexual encounters in exchange for the men sending visual depictions of the sexual encounters to him. Specifically, Grow required the adult males to produce, or assist in the production of, a visual depiction of the often-violent sexual acts. One such male, according to the indictment, was Bye.
The indictment alleges that Bye, with the direction and logistical assistance of Grow, not only participated in the sexual acts with the victim but also made the victim available for sex on numerous occasions to other men. According to the indictment, Bye would transport the victim to various locations in and around Myrtle Beach for commercial sex acts and would use internet message boards, social media, and text messages to make the victim available to other adult males for sexual encounters. The minor victim’s availability for the sexual encounters was predicated on the agreement with the adult males to produce and send visual depictions of the acts to Grow.
The indictment further alleges that Elrayes and Spillane responded to Bye’s internet postings and, after communicating with Bye via social media and text messages, engaged in sexually explicit conduct with the minor for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the acts. According to the indictment, the visual depictions with Elrayes were created at a hotel in Surfside Beach, and the visual depictions with Spillane were created at his Myrtle Beach home.
The indictment also alleges that in early 2021, after Grow had trafficked the first minor victim, he began communicating with a second minor victim in South Carolina. According to Court records, Grow coerced the second minor into producing visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct until shortly before his arrest in Arizona.
According to Court records, the defendants used social media applications, including Snapchat, Wattpad, and Kik to communicate with the victims and with each other. Grow used screen names, including “hgliese” and “hanners,” and aliases, including “Terry” and “Hannah,” when allegedly communicating with his victims.
Grow and Bye face a maximum penalty of life, and Elrayes and Spillane face a maximum penalty of five years. All defendants are currently detained.
“While this indictment speaks for itself, human trafficking and child exploitation are vile crimes, and this office will swiftly and aggressively prosecute those who prey upon minors,” said Acting U.S. Attorney DeHart. “Our ability to address these cases hinges on the great work of our federal, state, and local partners. We also ask parents to be vigilant and to pay attention to your children’s online and social media activity. No demographic is immune from this type of crime, and no family with a computer or a phone is out of reach from these types of predators.”
“The victimization and exploitation of children is a major threat to our community and something we must all work to eradicate,” said Special Agent in Charge Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in North Carolina and South Carolina. “HSI is committed to identifying and safeguarding victims of human trafficking and child exploitation and will aggressively pursue offenders and ensure justice is served.”
“Human trafficking and child exploitation is real, and it is happening in South Carolina,” said South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) Chief Mark Keel. “We have and will continue to work in collaboration with our local and federal partners to rescue those being victimized and bring justice to those who profit from the misery of others.”
The case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED), the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, and the Myrtle Beach Police Department. Assistant United States Attorneys Derek A. Shoemake and Amy Bower are prosecuting the case.
The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative designed to protect children from online exploitation and abuse. Led by the United States Attorney’s Offices, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.
Acting United States Attorney DeHart stated that all charges in indictments are merely accusations and that all defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.
If you or someone you know may have information relevant to this investigation, please call the HSI Tipline at 1-866-347-3423.