82 Arrested in Multi-State Child Exploitation Operation Named “Operation Southern Impact III”

(COLUMBIA, S.C.) – May 3, 2019 – A total of 82 people were arrested, and 17 children were rescued or identified as victims during a mutually coordinated operation between eight (8) southeastern states. The joint, proactive operation, Operation Southern Impact III, was coordinated by ten (10) Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in those eight states and focused on persons who possess and distribute child pornography and those who are sexually exploiting children in other ways using technology and the internet.  The planning for Operation Southern Impact III began approximately 4 months ago and culminated in 3 days of investigative actions to include search warrant executions, undercover operations, arrests and sex offender compliance verification visits in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia. A total of 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies participated in the operation.

The arrestees ranged in age from 20 to 70.  Some of their occupations included non-profit employee, small business owner, store clerk, mechanic, daycare administrator, youth group leader, former high school band director, freelance photographer, construction worker and painter.   During the operation, 134 search warrants were executed and 215 knock and talks were conducted in those eight (8) states. During those search warrants and knock and talks, 861 digital devices were previewed and 1,613 digital devices were seized.  Of those devices seized 203 were mobile phones.

These investigative actions resulted from both reactive cases such as cybertips received by each ICAC Task Force from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), and proactive cases such as peer-to-peer investigations and proactive, on-line undercover investigations.  Daily each task force receives numerous cybertips from NCMEC related to online child exploitation.  During Operation Southern Impact III, the investigations related to 248 cybertips were progressed through the execution of these search warrants and knock and talks, and through the seizure of digital devices which will be forensically processed in the coming weeks.  There were 22 internet safety presentations or related events held during the operation as well.

The continued collaboration among the national network of ICAC Task Forces is one of the most successful partnerships in the history of law enforcement.  The 61 ICAC Task Forces across the country are working cases and conducting investigative actions like these every day. The Commanders of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces in these states wanted to reinforce to those who harm and exploit children that the ICAC Task Forces will tirelessly work together to make an impact in their respective states and the region as a whole.  The cooperation among agencies and among states illustrates their level of commitment to detect, arrest, and prosecute child predators. Cooperation is always important in law enforcement, but it is never more important than when we set out to protect children. Operation Southern Impact III has given us an opportunity to share our experience, information, and resources across units, agencies, and state lines, to make sure that there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us.

Six people were arrested during this operation from South Carolina on charges ranging from possession and distribution of child pornography to voyeurism and criminal sexual conduct with a minor.  Over the course of the operation, 15 digital devices were examined on-site and 28 digital media and devices were seized as evidence.  Discovering the production, distribution and possession of these horrific images involving children from teens to infants is not uncommon. The law enforcement professionals working with the South Carolina ICAC Task Force find this type of material and those who commit hands-on offenses consistently during the course of their investigations.  Attorney General Alan Wilson stated “our ICAC Task Force members will continue their unwavering search to find those who seek to exploit and harm our children.  We will continue to work together as a team to locate, investigate and prosecute child predators.”

This multiagency collaborative effort across S.C. was coordinated by ICAC investigators with the Attorney General’s Office.  ICAC investigators working with the following local and state agencies executed search warrants during this statewide investigative effort:

S.C. Attorney General’s Office

Charleston Police Department

Horry County Sheriff’s Office

Pickens County Sheriff’s Office

Richland County Sheriff’s Office

York County Sheriff’s Office

 

These ICAC Task Force members assisted with the investigations and arrests:

Charleston County Sheriff’s Office

Covington (VA) Police Department

Florence County Sheriff’s Office

Homeland Security Investigations (HSI)

North Charleston Police Department

U.S. Marshals Service

U.S. Secret Service

Those charged in South Carolina as part of Operation Southern Impact III are:

  • Robert Hayes (age 23)                      Columbia, SC
    • 16 counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 2nd
  • James Everette Nesbitt (age 42)       Florence, SC
    • 10 counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 3rd
  • Nathaniel Blake Arguedas (age 20) Clover, SC
    • 2 counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 2nd
  • Antwon Nasir McCoy (age 23)        Myrtle Beach, SC
    • 15 counts of Sexual Exploitation of a Minor, 2nd
  • Tyler Eugene Canterbury (age 24)   Hot Springs, VA
    • 1 count of Criminal Sexual Conduct with a Minor
  • Jeffrey Alan Scofield (age 32)          North Charleston, SC
    • 2 counts of Voyeurism

Additional charges may be filed in the cases above pending the results of forensic examinations and all six cases will be prosecuted by the Attorney General’s Office.

Attorney General Wilson stressed all defendants are presumed innocent unless and until they are proven guilty in a court of law.

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