GBI: 20 arrested in child exploitation sting
♦ A majority of the men arrested were from the Cartersville area
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.”