Allison Ericson, Valdosta Today News Director:
VALDOSTA — Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office paired up with United States Air Force federal agents at Moody Air Force Base for operation Broken Heart. Broken Heart began in April 2014 in order to address the issue of child exploitation through social media outlets. The operation was designed towards Moody AFB’s military and civilian employees.
In a Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office press release, it stated, “Children or young people are often tricked into believing they’re in a loving, consensual relationship by an adult with ulterior motives.”
Throughout the operation agents used several social media platforms to disguise themselves as underage teenagers. The agents would conduct conversations as a ’14-year-old’ to lure suspects into relationships with the promise of ‘having fun.’ Once the agents established trust with the suspects they would schedule to meet them and arrest them.
Broken Heart originally began to catch military and civilian employees related to Moody AFB, but eventually began to catch unassociated civilians as well.
The operation has made 11 arrests total; two from Moody AFB. The Sheriff’s Office charged the men with Obscene Internet Contact, Computer and Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation prevention. The men were arrested and prosecuted by the office of District Attorney J. David Miller.
These men include: Kirk Allen Jackson,30, William Donald Taylor, 40, Todd Conrad Buckham, 45, Winston Landon Casady, 27, Wallace Newton Gaskins, 43, Ashton Mikal Tyus, 20, Raymond Geoffrey, 23, James Dominick Coleman, 22, Benjamin Keith Reedy, 21, Casey Sherwood Ellis, 24, and Corey Allan Williams, 23.
Lowndes County Sheriff, Chris Prine encourages parents to be involved with their children’s actions inside and outside of the home, especially on social media.
“The best advice to give is that parents need to monitor what their children are doing both on smart phones and media devices, iPads, and computers,” Prine said. “There are different programs out there they can use to track their activity. Talk to your kids, monitor their activity.”
The press release stated, “Anyone with information on any of these persons that may assist with the investigation is asked to contact the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office at 229-671-2950; anonymous tips can be provided at 229-671-2985 or online at www.lowndessheriff.com.