Multistate child exploitation operation bust leads to 82 arrests, 17 rescues, officials say

Officials in Georgia announced Friday that 82 suspects were arrested as a result of a four-month-long sting across eight states targeting those who possessed or distributed “the most violent sexual abuse material involving infants and toddlers.”

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI) said Friday that the operation, dubbed Operation Southern Impact III, focused on arresting individuals who possessed and distributed child pornography, in addition to those who sexually exploited children using the Internet, the agency said in a press release.

The bust was coordinated among tasks forces in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia.

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In all, 31 people were arrested in Georgia alone, seven of whom traveled with the intention of having sex with a minor.

Officials said the ages of those arrested ranged from as young as 20 to as old as 70. A youth group leader and a day care administrator were among those charged.

In addition to the arrests, 17 children were rescued or identified as victims.

During the three-day execution of Operation Southern Impact III, investigators issued 134 search warrants, conducted 215 “knock and talks” and seized 1,613 digital devices, the GBI said.

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The GBI said that while investigators regularly target all types of child pornography, this operation went after those “seeking out and distributing the most violent sexual abuse material involving infants and toddlers.”

Officials said 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies were involved with the takedown.