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Justice News

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

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Thursday, June 13, 2019

Two indictments among 1,700 nationwide for child exploitation in 'Operation Broken Heart'

Suspected child sex predators found by Internet crimes task force

SAVANNAH, GA:  Two Georgia men are among nearly 1,700 arrested for child sex exploitation crimes as part of a nationwide Department of Justice initiative.

Steven Andrew Ross, 29, of Savannah, is charged with Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Minor and Attempted Coercion and Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity for incidents in Camden and Chatham counties, and Benjamin Ray, 38, of Honea Path, S.C., is charged with Attempted Coercion and Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity and Felony Offense Involving a Minor Committed by a Registered Sex Offender for incidents in Chatham County, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia.

The federal charges for which Ray is indicted carry a penalty of 20 years to life in prison, while the charges against Ross carry a penalty of 10 years to life in prison. There is no parole in the federal system, and if released, each defendant would be subject to serve supervised release for five years to life.

“As the perception of sexual exploitation of children continues to move from windowless vans in back alleys to Dark Web sites on the Internet, the investigation and prosecution of these vile crimes must continue to evolve,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “We are determined, with our law enforcement partners, to find these criminals wherever they try to hide and protect the innocent from victimization.”

Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide operation conducted during April and May by the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, led to the arrest of nearly 1,700 suspected online child sex offenders. The task forces identified 308 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and identified 357 children who suffered recent, ongoing or historical sexual abuse or were exploited in the production of child pornography.

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.

“The sexual abuse of children is repugnant, and it victimizes the most innocent and vulnerable of all," Attorney General William P. Barr said. “We must bring the full force of the law against sexual predators, and with the help of our Internet Crimes Against Children program, we will. Over the span of just two months, our ICAC task forces investigated more than 18,000 complaints of internet-related abuse and helped arrest 1,700 alleged abusers. I would like to thank our Office of Justice Programs, all of the task force members, and especially the state and local partners who helped us achieve these important results. We are committed to bringing the defendants in these cases to justice and protecting every American child.”

“Sexual exploitation steals the innocence of children, and the criminals who engage in these acts often inflict life-long trauma on their victims,” said Special Agent in Charge Nick S. Annan of the Atlanta field office of Homeland Security Investigations. “HSI is committed to investigating child exploitation cases as one of its highest priorities, and we deeply appreciate the efforts of our U.S. Attorney partners to protect children from these terrible crimes.”

The ICAC Program is funded through the Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP). For more information, visit the ICAC Task Force webpage at www.icactaskforce.org.

Criminal indictments contain only charges; defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.

The cases in the Southern District of Georgia are being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Savannah Police Department, in conjunction with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. The cases are being prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tania Groover.

Topic(s): 
Human Trafficking
Cyber Crime
Contact: 
Barry L. Paschal, Public Affairs Officer (Contractor): 912-652-4422
Press Release Number: 
60-19
Updated June 13, 2019