NC elementary school custodian among 21 accused of attempting to - FOX Carolina 21

NC elementary school custodian among 21 accused of attempting to meet children for sex in sting operation

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William Pruitt (Source: Jackson Co. Sheriff's Office) William Pruitt (Source: Jackson Co. Sheriff's Office)
COLUMBUS, GA (FOX Carolina) -

The Georgia Bureau of Investigation said 21 people accused of attempting to meet children for sex were arrested during a five-day online undercover investigation coordinated by the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force in November.

One of the suspects was a Western North Carolina man, GBI said. Jackson County Public Schools confirmed 48-year-old William Pruitt worked as a custodian and bus driver at Smoke Mountain Elementary School.

Pruitt was arrested on allegations of inappropriate contact with a minor and the district said he has been terminated. They are complying with law enforcement in the investigation.

"At this time, we know of no connection between this arrest and Jackson County Public Schools," the district said in a statement.

The operation began on November 9 and centered around the Columbus, GA area.

Each suspect was charged with O.C.G.A. 16-12-100.2, Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act of 2007 and may face additional charged.

During “Operation Hidden Guardian,” investigators said more than 400 messages related to sex were exchanged with on various social media or internet platforms. Nearly 40 cases were established and 21 ended in arrest. In some of those cases, investigators said the adult introduced obscene or lewd content, exposed the undercover officers posing as minors to pornography, or asked for nude photos.

The suspects range in ages from their 20s to their 50s. One suspect is a military instructor from Alabama.

Below is a list of the suspects:

  • Austin Tyler Pierce, W/M, Columbus, 26, car wash attendant
  • Reginald Kiiani Crowell, B/M, Pittsview, AL, 36, unemployed
  • Jonathan David Jenkins, B/M, Columbus, GA, 23, treatment operator
  • Brian A Cocoran, W/M, Columbus, GA, 42, unemployed
  • Ji Won Kim, A/M, 26, Atlanta, GA, unemployed
  • Derrick Lamart Smalls, B/M, 38, Phenix City, AL, military instructor
  • Robert Alan Moore, W/M, 31, Ledonia, AL, tech specialist
  • Collis Dwight Eaton, W/M, 48, Midway, AL, electrician
  • Kenneth Jordan, B/M, 29, Columbus, GA, research assistant
  • Edwin Nieves, H/M, 55, Columbus, GA, customer service worker
  • Ke Song, A/M, 24, Auburn, AL, student
  • Christopher McGowan, W/M, 32, Mechanicsburg, PA, industrial mechanic
  • Jarrod R. Long, B/M, 27, Columbus, GA, city maintenance worker
  • Jimmy Cobb, B/M, 35, Columbus, GA, mechanic
  • Uthemes Taylor, B/M, 30, Columbus, GA, forklift driver
  • Michael Andrew Everett, B/M, 22, Columbus, GA, unemployed
  • Harold Bates, B/M, 35, Selma, AL, pipe welder
  • Dereck C. Weldon, B/M, 30, Columbus, GA, unemployed
  • Gary D. Whitfield, B/M, 28, Columbus, GA, unemployed
  • William Pruitt, W/M, 48, Franklin, NC, school custodian
  • Eric K. Menefee, B/M, 50, Opelika, AL, unemployed

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