GBI: 20 ar­rested in child ex­ploita­tion sting

♦ A ma­jor­ity of the men ar­rested were from the Cartersville area

The Standard Journal - - POLICE & FIRE - Staff re­ports

Polk’s 911 Depart­ment is mak­ing progress in their ef­forts to re­pair their faulty ra­dio tow­ers, and while not com­pletely fixed, hir­ing tech com­pany Di­ver­si­fied to down­grade the as­so­ci­ated firmware has re­port­edly helped clear some of the is­sues with com­mu­ni­cat­ing and mon­i­tor­ing is­sues.

911 Di­rec­tor Crys­tal Vin­cent sched­uled an­other meet­ing with the com­pany to dis­cuss fur­ther amend­ments, and in­stalling new switches is the group’s next bet at a com­pletely re­paired sys­tem.

“We’re meet­ing (last) Thurs­day with Di­ver­si­fied to try to fig­ure out what’s go­ing on with the ra­dios,” Vin­cent said. “They did back the firmware down. It helped some, but we’re still hav­ing is­sues. We’re also putting (in) two new switches: one at Cedar­town’s tower and one in Rock­mart’s tower.”

It’s im­por­tant to note that chang­ing the switches is not a guar­an­teed res­o­lu­tion to the prob­lem.

The switches, that help con­nect mul­ti­ple de­vices to­gether into a sin­gle lo­cal net­work, have slowly been re­placed through­out the county, but the group is not en­tirely sure the ra­dio tower is suf­fer­ing from faulty switches the same way many com­put­ers have been.

“We’re not really sure,” Polk IT Di­rec­tor David Smith said dur­ing the Novem­ber 5 work ses­sion. “There are no er­rors on the switches right now, but we’re go­ing to change them and see if that helps.”

Di­ver­si­fied has al­ready or­dered the de­vices, and they plan to in­stall them as soon as they ar­rive.

Even if the faulty ra­dio tow­ers per­sist, Polk’s fi­nance depart­ment is sure to ben­e­fit from the new servers the bid com­mit­tee sug­gested.

Tak­ing the low bid from com­pany SHI, com­mis­sioner Scotty Tillery sug­gested the three servers be pur­chased at $22,933.21. The ur­gency, and the fact SHI is a state con­trac­tor, means the group would be able to forego the bid­ding process, and the fi­nance depart­ment should be op­er­at­ing at their peak as soon as Smith can in­stall the de­vices. They ap­proved fund­ing for those servers the fol­low­ing night.

In a time of del­i­cate tech­ni­cal is­sues, height­ened security is im­por­tant. Since Oc­to­ber served as Cy­ber Security Aware­ness Month, Smith of­fered some tips and prac­tices to bet­ter pre­serve sen­si­tive in­for­ma­tion on­line.

“I didn’t get to speak at Oc­to­ber’s meet­ing, but I did want to bring th­ese points up,” Smith said. “Ev­ery­one in the county should take care of pro­tect­ing their pass­words be­cause we do have so­cial security num­bers, we do have in­for­ma­tion that needs to be se­cure.”

Pass­word security proved to be a ma­jor point for Smith who urged work­ers to change their pass­words of­ten, use spe­cial char­ac­ters, and to con­ceal their pass­word from oth­ers.

“Use com­plex pass­words. A min­i­mum of eight char­ac­ters with spe­cial char­ac­ters mixed in,” Smith urged. “If you want to use the word ‘bum­ble­bee,’ just nor­mally, it can be hacked within five sec­onds. But if you sub­sti­tute let­ters and char­ac­ters for let­ters in your pass­word, like ‘bum­b1b33,’ it be­comes much harder.”

County Man­ager Matt Den­ton also of­fered tips, men­tion­ing that em­ploy­ees should avoid us­ing USB stor­age de­vices and other mem­ory sticks on of­fice com­put­ers when not ac­quired di­rectly from the of­fice.

Be­fore they fin­ished for the night, Com­mis­sion Chair Jen­nifer Hulsey men­tioned De­cem­ber com­mit­tee meet­ings could be limited due to the hol­i­days, but the fi­nance com­mit­tee will still likely meet. They chose to move meet­ing dates to Dec. 10 and Dec. 11 for the fi­nal work and reg­u­lar ses­sions of the cal­en­dar year.

An un­der­cover four day oper­a­tion cen­tered in Bar­tow County — dubbed “Pal­adin” — net­ted the ar­rest of 20 men over a four day pe­riod.

The oper­a­tion took sev­eral months of plan­ning, a GBI press re­lease stated, and sev­eral of the men — in­clud­ing one reg­is­tered sex of­fender —trav­eled from ar­eas around North­west Ge­or­gia with the in­tent to meet a child for sex. Polk County Po­lice De­tec­tive B. Brady was among those who took part in the sting oper­a­tion.

“Over the course of the oper­a­tion, over 30 cases were es­tab­lished that met the thresh­old for ar­rest,” the re­lease stated. “Twenty of those cases were con­cluded with ar­rests.”

Sev­eral sub­jects com­mu­ni­cated si­mul­ta­ne­ously with mul­ti­ple in­ves­ti­ga­tors pos­ing as mi­nors. Twenty-four mo­bile phones, sus­pected il­le­gal drugs and at least one firearm were seized as ev­i­dence dur­ing the oper­a­tion.

The fol­low­ing were ar­rested and charged in Bar­tow County as part of “Oper­a­tion Pal­adin”:

Ran­dall Ball, 25, of Ac­worth, gro­cery stocker

Bai­ley Brown, 29, of Jasper, emer­gency home re­pair re­spon­der

Richard Brown, 53, of Trion, mill worker

Steven By­ers, 33, of Jasper, elec­tri­cian

Bryan Cain, 36, of Cal­houn, unem­ployed/col­lege stu­dent

Jef­frey Cole­man, 52, of Cartersville, glass tech­ni­cian

Michael Crider, 51, of Cartersville, CAD op­er­a­tor

Daniel Dor­ough, 56, of Cartersville, self-em­ployed land­scaper

Daniel Ewart, 38, of Cartersville, tow truck driver

Shawn Jef­frey, 26, of Pow­der Springs, pest con­trol tech­ni­cian

Clarence Mann, 59, of Kingston, truck driver

Ver­nale Mas­call, 25, of Cartersville, fast food worker

Rick Paul, 25, of Dal­las, Cer­ti­fied Nurs­ing As­sis­tant

Isaac Sanchez, 20, of Sum­merville, pain­ter

Char­lie Smith III, 45, Cartersville, pa­tient care tech­ni­cian

Thomas Smith, 43, of Rome, de­liv­ery driver

Ti­mothy Smith, 57, of Cartersville, cus­tomer ser­vice

Conner Thrash, 28, of Wood­stock, truck driver

Michael Turner, 37, of Villa Rica, unem­ployed

Michael Wills, 34, of Cartersville, tree ser­vice em­ployee

Those ar­rested are charged com­puter or elec­tronic pornog­ra­phy and child ex­ploita­tion pre­ven­tion act of 2007 and/or traf­fick­ing of per­sons for la­bor or sex­ual servi­tude. Many may face ad­di­tional charges.

Since 2014, the Ge­or­gia In­ter­net Crimes Against Chil­dren Task Force has ar­rested over 100 peo­ple in sim­i­lar op­er­a­tions — the ma­jor­ity of which take place on var­i­ous so­cial me­dia or in­ter­net plat­forms. About half of the 200-plus ex­changes in­volved web­sites used for dat­ing, so­cial­iz­ing, or even web­sites used for clas­si­fied ad­ver­tise­ments.

“This type of co­op­er­a­tion and col­lab­o­ra­tion is in­valu­able in the ef­fort to keep our chil­dren safe from preda­tors who seek to harm them,” ICAC Com­man­der Deb­bie Gar­ner said.

The task force is com­prised of 23-plus lo­cal, state, and fed­eral law en­force­ment agen­cies, other re­lated crim­i­nal jus­tice agen­cies and prose­cu­tor’s of­fices.

“This oper­a­tion is a prime ex­am­ple of in­ter­a­gency plan­ning and co­op­er­a­tion,” Bar­tow County Sher­iff Clark Mill­sap stated. “I am proud that we were able to host the Ge­or­gia ICAC Task Force at our fa­cil­ity to carry it out.”

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