Regional task force targets child predators in the Pine Belt

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FORREST COUNTY, Mississippi (WDAM) – A secret investigation to eliminate those preying on children online has led to four arrests in the Pine Belt.

WDAM got an exclusive behind-the-scenes look at a major operation leading to the arrests in Forrest County.

“Knowing that there are children who are wanted, cared for and treated so terribly by adult men for me, it’s just a matter of justice,” said Sandy Middleton, executive director of the Center for Violence Prevention.

The Pine Belt Anti-Human Trafficking Task Force is actively working to try to end the exploitation of children through operations targeting child predators.

“It’s wrong and it’s the worst kind of victimization you can see,” Middleton said.

The truth behind the reality of the abuse.

“These girls are starved, beaten, raped, chained to trees and locked in logs,” Middleton said. “They have these terrible experiences.”

Middleton said pimps capitalizing on vulnerable children are occurring in Pine Belt communities. This organization is a victim advocate and is part of the task force encompassing federal, state and local law enforcement agencies that work together to rescue victims and eliminate predators.

“The same kind of person who would talk and chat online with a child is the same kind of person who could potentially pay for a child in a human trafficking scenario,” said Captain Phillip Hendricks, chief county investigator by Forrest.

In a secret location, hidden cameras were recording, covert surveillance was in place, and bogus ads in online dating apps were sent in an attempt to lure potential pimps.

“And then we had some chatter that was actually speaking to the people who responded to the ads,” Hendricks said. “Talkers identified themselves as minors. If the person continues to talk to them and wants to talk about sex or transmit sexually explicit images or ask to meet for sex, then we will identify that person as a suspect.

Hendricks said that throughout this operation adult men were taken down by walking into a room where they thought they would meet a child. Instead, the suspected predators came face to face with a team of specially trained federal, state, and law enforcement undercover officers.

“We arrested three people who came forward to meet a minor for sex and another person had sent sexually explicit photos and asked to meet for sex, but did not actually show up,” he said. said Hendricks. “This person was also arrested.

Four men were arrested in the process and now face child exploitation charges in Forrest County. Those shot dead during the operation are Desmond Alexander Vanburen, Marc C. Porter, Chadwick Wilson and Ellicio Murillo, Junior.

“We have seen in our other investigations that human traffickers often try to create this bogus romantic relationship with their victims first,” Hendricks said. “So we kind of expected that some of the people we might arrest would be traffickers trying to recruit new victims. “

This investigation is ongoing and other charges could be laid as well as other arrests in this case. Hendricks said it is essential that parents and guardians help in this battle to protect children in our communities.

“I hope that parents will see the real danger that exists, that they will be involved in the lives of their children, especially in their online business,” said Hendricks.

With human trafficking and child exploitation, in some cases it is common to see abusers forcibly exploiting physical and mental torture among their victims, according to Hendricks. These horrific stories and images play a part in the continuing struggle for the innocent.

Middleton said that through the denouement of violence and attempted predation, there is a light shining on the other end; survivors and those working to end serious human rights violations.

“People have come to the task force who want to work on these cases,” Middleton said. “Someone didn’t send them. They are here because they want to be here and they want to work on these cases. As a community, we have to take a stand and stand up for these children. Not just the children, but also the children. adult women. “

If you have any suspicion of human trafficking or child exploitation, you can call the Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-3737-888.

Operation Take a Seat was a coordinated effort between several law enforcement agencies, prosecutors and service organizations.

Law enforcement agencies that participated in the operation were the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security, the Mississippi Bureau of Investigation, the Mississippi Department of Corrections, the Forrest County Sheriff’s Office, the Department of Hattiesburg Police, Purvis Police Department, Waveland Police Department, Meridian Public School Campus. Hinds County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office.

Nonprofits that provided volunteers and logistical support were Klaas Kids, FREE International, Called2Rescue, Anonymity Rescue Ministries and the Center for Violence Prevention.

Legal advice in planning the operation was provided by the South Mississippi District Attorney’s Office, the Mississippi Attorney General’s Office, the 12th Circuit District Attorney’s Office, the 15th Circuit District Attorney’s Office and the District Attorney. of Forrest County.

Copyright 2019 WDAM. All rights reserved.


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