VALDOSTA, GA – Six airmen assigned to Moody Air Force Base, Georgia, were among 11 people arrested in a child exploitation sting targeting base personnel, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office announced this week.
All are charged with obscene Internet contact, computer and electronic pornography and child exploitation.
The sheriff’s office and Moody officials identified the airmen as Senior Airman James Coleman, 22; 2nd Lt Casey Ellis, 24; Airman 1st Class Benjamin Reedy, 21; Senior Airman Raymond Taylor, 23; Airman 1st Class Ashton Tyus, 20; and Airman 1st Class Corey Williams, 23.
Moody spokeswoman 2nd Lt Brianca Williams did not immediately have information on the airmen’s job assignments and squadrons.
Air Force and sheriff’s office investigators launched the sting, called Operation Broken Heart, in April “to address the growing problem of child exploitation via social media and networking sites,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release.
Agents posing as a 14-year-old looking for friendship posted ads on social media and other websites. Those arrested are accused of “making overtures for a meeting, often requesting photographs and the promise of ‘having fun,'” the news release said. Some of the suspects “blatantly mentioned sexual activity as a possibility of the meeting.”
After the suspects allegedly agreed to meet whom they believed was an underage teenager, authorities made their arrests, the news release said.
Although the sting targeted Moody personnel, “several unassociated civilians initiated contact with the undercover agent and were ultimately arrested for their actions,” the release said.
District Attorney J. David Miller will prosecute all of those charged.
In the news release, the sheriff’s office urged parents to monitor their children at home. “There are many ways for parents to limit the reach of predators to their children … parents need to monitor what their children are doing both on smart phones and media devices,” it said.