The Athens-Clarke County Police Department was one of multiple entities involved in the arrest of nine individuals involved in a child sex investigation. All nine were arrested in Clarke County. (File/Staff)

Over a three-day period starting on July 25, undercover law enforcement agents worked with the Federal Bureau of Investigation to arrest and charge people involved in a child sex operation. The investigation was based in Athens and took several months of planning, according to a press release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

The investigation, called “Operation End Game,” resulted in the arrest of nine individuals ranging in age from 19 to 53, who “traveled from areas around Northeast Georgia with the intent to meet a child for sex,” according to the release.

All nine individuals were arrested and charged in Clarke County.

"Thanks to this coordinated three-day effort, multiple predators have been removed from our streets and are no longer free to victimize our children,” Athens-Clarke County Police Chief Cleveland Spruill said, according to the release.

Throughout the extent of the operation, over 25 cases total were established that met the threshold for arrest. According to the release, the goal of the investigation was to arrest those who communicated with children through online chat rooms and websites, planning to then meet them for the purpose of sexual exploitation. Other indivudals were targetted for looking to purchase sex with minors.

According to the release, investigators had more than 200 exchanges with subjects on multiple social media platforms, many of which occurred on dating and socialization websites. In addition, many of these cases involved “adult-only” websites on which minors could pose as adults, then being exposed to harassment, victimization and sexual assault by child predators.

When the suspects initiated contact with someone they thought was a minor, they turned the conversation toward a sexual direction, according to the release. In some cases, the suspects exposed the “minor” to pornography or asked them to take nude photos.

One of the arestees is a convicted murderer and another was in possession of multiple firearms and a machete. All nine were charged under the Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007, according to the release. During the operation, 13 mobile phones were seized as evidence.

Since 2014, the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force has arrested over 130 people in similar operations.

The Georgia ICAC Task Force is a multi-agency entity with the mission of assisting local and state enforcement agencies in developing an “effective response” to cases of child pornography and “cyber enticement,” according to the release. The Georgia ICAC Task Force has made over 2,000 arrests since its inception in 2002.

According to the release, “Operation End Game” was conducted by the Georgia ICAC Task Force — which in this specific investigation was comprised of 10 law enforcement agencies — the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit, the ACCPD, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the United States Attorney’s Office for the Middle District of Georgia and the ACC District Attorney’s Office.

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