Undercover Operation For Internet Predators Leads To 10 Arrests

YORK COUNTY, S.C. (CN2 NEWS) Ten people have been arrested for allegedly using the internet for child sex crimes.  Among them, military personnel, a college professor, and a salesman.

One suspect lives in Ohio, six were in North Carolina, and three were in South Carolina, including Aaron Snyder, 34, from Lake Wylie, and Xanthus Murdaugh, 44. York County Sheriff Kevin Tolsons said one of the suspects is a registered sex offender.

This undercover operation was based out of York County.  The York County Sheriff’s Office partnered with several other agencies, including the FBI, U.S. Secret Service and Homeland Security Investigations.

“At any given time there were 25 to 40 officers, analysts and additional staff members working diligently during this operation,” said Tolson.

Officers said they registered on numerous social media applications, and the suspects didn’t know they were chatting online with undercover police officers.

“They attempted to entice children to provide child pornography, and then attempted to meet those children to engage in illicit sexual activities,” said Ronnie Martinez of Homeland Security Investigations.

Tolson said five of the suspects actually came to Fort Mill to meet with someone they believed to be a child for illicit sexual activity.

“They traveled from where they were to here, and were taken into custody here,” said Tolson.

Charges against the ten suspects range from criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, to disseminating pornography to a minor and promoting the prostitution of a minor. Authorities say they also identified at least seven victims during the investigation, and believe there could be more.

“These types of predators target children online. More often than not, they have been a hands on offender at some point with a victim that may or may not have ever come forward,” said Kevin Tolson at a press conference, “Taken these people off the streets is one of the most important tasks that law enforcement performs in our community.”

Tolson said the suspects have been charged at the state-level, but it’s possible they could be charged at the federal level as well.

“Let this be a warning to anyone out there thinking they’re hiding from the law as they prey on innocent. We are watching, and we will find you.”

Tolson says they expect to make several more arrests in the next few weeks.

“It is very possible that had these suspects not been identified and arrested talking to an officer, they would have been talking to a live child.”

For tips on how parents can protect their children from online predators, visit www.fbi.gov.