COLUMBIA, SC (FOX Carolina) - Law enforcement agencies from across the southern United States took part in a joint operation to arrest people actively sharing child pornography and sexually exploiting children using technology, including one sheriff's office in the Upstate.
The office of SC Attorney General Alan Wilson announced that 82 people were arrested as part of Operation Southern Impact III, and in the process law enforcement was able to rescue or identify 17 children as victims during the 8-state operation. Wilson's office says planning for Southern Impact III began about 4 months ago and culminated in three days of search warrant executions, undercover operations, arrests, and sex offender compliance visits. All of this happened in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia, and West Virginia.
Wilson says those arrest range from 20 to 70 years in age, and occupations included a non-profit employee, small business owner, store clerk, mechanic, daycare administrator, youth group leader, former high school band director, freelance photographer, construction worker, and painter. The office also notes 134 search warrants were executed and 215 knock and talks were conducted, which lead to 861 digital devices being previewed and 1,613 devices seized. Of the devices seized, 203 were mobile phones.
The collaboration was easily coordinated because some of the agencies involved were Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task forces. A total of 171 agencies were involved in the operation, handling 248 cybertips from the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children.
The six arrestees from South Carolina face charges ranging from distributing and possessing child pornography to voyeurism and criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Wilson says some of the images seized involved children ranging in age from infants to teens.
The following individuals are charged in South Carolina. Their ages and charges are included as well:
- Robert Hayes, 23, of Columbia, SC
- 16 counts of 2nd degree sexual exploitation of a minor
- James Everette Nesbitt, 42, of Florence, SC
- 10 counts of 3rd degree sexual exploitation of a minor
- Nathaniel Blake Arquedas, 20, of Clover, SC
- 2 counts of 2nd degree sexual exploitation of a minor
- Antwon Nasir McCoy, 23, of Myrtle Beach, SC
- 15 counts of 2nd degree sexual exploitation of a minor
- Tyler Eugene Canterbury, 24, of Hot Springs, VA
- 1 count of criminal sexual conduct with a minor
- Jeffrey Alan Scofield, 32, of North Charleston, SC
- 2 counts of voyeurism
Wilson advises additional charges may be filed in these cases pending the results of forensic examinations. All six cases will be prosecuted by his office.
The following agencies listed by SCAG were part of Southern Impact III:
- S.C. Attorney General’s Office
- Charleston Police Department
- Horry County Sheriff’s Office
- Pickens County Sheriff’s Office
- Richland County Sheriff’s Office
- Charleston County Sheriff's Office
- Covington (VA) Police Department
- Florence County Sheriff's Office
- Homeland Security Investigations
- North Charleston Police Department
- U.S. Marshals Service
- U.S. Secret Service