Georgia authorities recently executed a four-day dragnet focused on internet sex crimes occurring mainly in Bartow County. The total operation spanned several months of planning, according to authorities. In the four-day period beginning on Nov. 1, 2018, the police arrested 20 persons, ages 20 to 59, who allegedly traveled to parts of Georgia to meet a child for sex. Whether a suspect can assert a criminal defense to the charges depends on the unique facts of each case.
The suspects allegedly first cultivated contacts online with a purported underage child and then arranged for a personal meeting to take place. In addition to the sexual exploitation charges, some of the suspects were also arrested for possession of illegal drugs. There was one gun charge and the police reportedly seized 24 mobile phones as evidence. The authorities say that these so-called online child predators visit chat rooms and websites to seek out and meet children with the intent of luring them into having sex.
The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC), a law enforcement agency involved in the operation, reports that it has arrested over 100 people for such offenses since 2014. Several other Georgia counties and municipal police departments are members of the ICAC. Numerous federal, state and local agencies cooperate together to bring about the successful execution of such investigations. The task force undercover operations are carried out to protect against the exploitation of children. However, the persons arrested rarely have any contact with persons who are underage.
The task force supplies law enforcement undercover agents who pretend to be minors and who participate in the arranging of a meeting. In some instances, the task force operatives represent themselves online to be adults in order to obtain an in-person meeting with the suspect. Entrapment is often a potential criminal defense in such undercover setups for counsel to consider under both Georgia and federal law.