Two Grovetown men indicted on federal child porn charges


Staff Reports


Aug 7, 2020 at 12:23 PM

Two Grovetown men have been indicted in federal court for allegedly possessing child pornography.

Jordan Logan, 35, and Johnathan Malone, 22, were indicted by a U.S. District Court grand jury on one count each of possession of child pornography, according to U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia Bobby Christine.

In both cases, Georgia Bureau of Investigation probes reportedly resulted in illegal images being found on devices belonging to accused.

“Cyber exploitation of children is at epidemic levels, and we commend our law enforcement partners for their diligence in finding those who would engage in such abhorrent behavior,” said Christine. “We likewise will be diligent in prosecuting these cases to the fullest extent of the law.”

If convicted, Logan and Malone face up to 20 years in federal prison, followed by sex offender registration.

Source: https://www.augustachronicle.com/news/20200807/two-grovetown-men-indicted-on-federal-child-porn-charges?rssfeed=true

Madison County sex offender loses $1,000 to scammer posing as deputy


Jul 28, 2020 at 12:18 PM

A Colbert man on the sex offender register was scammed out of $1,000 recently after he received a phone call demanding money from a man he believed was a ranking deputy with the Madison County Sheriff’s Office.

The scam — common in Northeast Georgia where callers assume names of actual officers in various agencies — took place Saturday afternoon while the man was working in Oconee County, according to a Madison County sheriff’s report.

The 34-year-old man told deputies that the caller identified himself as a lieutenant in the sheriff’s office who had a warrant for the man’s arrest for failing to re-register on the sex offender’s registry.

The man told the deputy he believed he was talking to an actual officer and he complied with the man’s orders to purchase $1,000 in gift cards and provide him with the activation numbers.

The caller also demanded to remain on the phone while the victim drove to his home in Colbert to obtain the cash, according to the report. The man then went to a Dollar General and purchased Green Dot cards totaling $1,000.

The man did not realize he had been defrauded until he contacted his probation officer to make sure there was not an active warrant for his arrest, according to the report.

The responding deputy called the number provided by the caller and he listened to a voicemail that claimed to be the sheriff’s lieutenant.

The deputy, who reported he has spoken to the named lieutenant countless times, knew that “without a shadow of doubt,” the voicemail recording was not made by the lieutenant.

Sheriff’s Capt. Jimmy Patton said Monday that it appears con artists working this scheme take information off agency websites to make the calls appear legitimate.

Law enforcement officers constantly warn citizens to be wary of any caller asking for money on gift cards.

Source: https://www.onlineathens.com/news/20200728/madison-county-sex-offender-loses-1000-to-scammer-posing-as-deputy?rssfeed=true

Restore Georgia urges all county Sheriffs to suspend in-person sex offender registration

Today, Restore Georgia, an organization representing the 23,000 citizens on Georgia’s Sexual Offender Registry, mailed a letter to Executive Director J. Terry Norris of the Georgia Sheriffs’ Association, Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vic Reynolds, and all 159 Sheriffs across our state urging them to implement strategies to reduce COVID-19 exposure among law enforcement officials and those required to register, as well as their families at home and the broader community.

During the annual registration verification process, people are required to be photographed and fingerprinted in-person. This hands-on registration process places officers at risk by forcing them to place hands on potentially dozens of people each day.

Restore Georgia is calling upon the Sheriffs of all Georgia counties to:

  • Suspend in-person registration requirements;
  • Waive or suspend enforcement of housing proximity restrictions;
  • Waive or suspend arrests and prosecutions for failure-to-comply offenses;
  • Suspend fees for registration;
  • Suspend in-person address verification.

Sheriffs departments across the State of Georgia should suspend rules and policies that are not essential to public safety or that contribute to the spread of COVID-19. These strategies allow law enforcement, on the front-lines of this catastrophe to dedicate more of their limited resources toward crisis intervention and emergency assistance.

Click here to read the letter.

Inside look: Forsyth County’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit

ICAC in the Forsyth Co. Sheriffs Office was recently recognized as one of the top units in the state.

CUMMING, Ga. — The Internet Crimes Against Children Unit or ICAC at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office is doing things a little bit differently in targeting sexual predators.

But it’s caught attention – the unit was recently recognized for their outstanding work by the Georgia Bureau of Investigations.

In the fall of 2019, the unit made 24 arrests during an undercover operation called “Operation Just Cause.”

It led to the arrests of suspected predators, as young as 19 and as old as 65. Most were from North Georgia, but others traveled to Forsyth County from surrounding states to meet children.

Detectives in the task force say that operation is just one example of the work they are doing everyday.

“We handle sometimes 40 cases at one time, and the national average for a deputy in any given department is about 20,” says Detective Jeffrey Roe, an investigator at the Forsyth County Sheriffs Office.

Roe said he believes a major component to their success is attention to detail and the talent of their team.

“I was so humbled to be recognized by GBI, but it’s the combined efforts of each team member that makes our success possible,” he said.

Lt. Ben Finley, the North Patrol Division Commander at the Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office, said the unit also is the first in the state to use drone technologies in these types of crimes.

“It has been hugely successful for us, and it helps us communicate with our undercover officers on the ground about a suspects whereabouts for a smoother arrest,” Finley explained.

Both Roe and Finley said they place a emphasis on understanding that there is no “type” for a sexual predator.

“In my 18 years of doing this, we come across all types – young or old,” Roe said. “We’ve arrested law enforcement officers, judges and even pastors.”

Both men also attribute the unit’s success to focusing on singularity and assigning one task to each member of the team, in order to eliminate multi-tasking errors. The agency said they have anywhere from 40 to 100 officers working on an operation, at any given time.

The agency also is a big proponent of collaboration, often working with other agencies across Georgia and bordering states to make arrests. Unit officials said that internet crimes against children continue to worsen and evolve, which is why they focus on community engagement.

Detective Roe said he speaks at area schools to inform parents and families of the dangers of social media and peer pressure online. Roe said he also works to debunk terms like “kiddy” porn and child porn, because “these are sexual abuse crimes, and we want to make people aware of the gravity of that term and to make parents pro-active.”

Source: https://www.11alive.com/article/news/local/mynews/cumming/internet-crimes-against-children-unit/85-ff95732f-cb09-44e5-9534-5da79fb1fbc1

Visitors at Lowndes Co. Schools required to show ID for sex offender check


By Ri’Shawn Bassette | November 18, 2019 at 11:12 PM EST – Updated November 19 at 12:01 AM

LOWNDES CO., Ga. (WALB) – The new Lowndes County School System’s ID system checks all visitors to see if they’re on the national sex offender registry. It’s being implemented all across the county school system, including the Board of Education.

Everyone is required to have their ID checked against the sex-offender registry at all Lowndes County Schools.

Everyone is required to have their ID checked against the sex-offender registry at all Lowndes County Schools. (Source: WALB)

“I’ve never had to show my ID until today,” said Raymond Walker.

Walker is a father od a student at Hahira Middle School. He said that he forgot his ID walking up to the school.

Principal Ivy Smith said he wasn’t the first to do so since they’ve implemented the new system over the last couple of weeks.

Raymond Walker is the father of a student at Hahira Middle School.

Raymond Walker is the father of a student at Hahira Middle School. (Source: WALB)

“It’s just an added safety measure for our students and our staff,” said Smith.

Still getting used to new the process that checks for sex offenders, Walker entered the school and had to run back to his car to get his ID. He said he didn’t mind at all because he’s proud of the school system for taking added steps to ensure everyone’s safety.

“I think it’s a great idea. I really admire the steps they’re taking to keep all of the children safe,” said Walker. “You have so many school shootings, people coming in that’s not even supposed to be there and wreaking havoc on everybody involved. I just think it’s a great idea. Every step they can take to make the school safer, I’m all in for it.”

Similar to how Smith said she’s all in, being that it’s her duty to ensure the safety of the entire campus.

“The world we live in, in this day and age, you cannot be overprotective. Having this added measure certainly makes me feel safe and makes me feel more comfortable overseeing the safety of our students and staff,” said Smith.

Principal Ivy Smith

Principal Ivy Smith (Source: WALB)

Smith said that she thinks the new system is just a testament to student safety being the top priority of the Lowndes County School System.

“I foresee that we will use it for several years. I’m sure as technology expands, there may be a time where we are searching other things other than what it currently is. I think moving forward, we’re on the right path,” said Smith.

Walker said that any school across the nation not using a system like this one needs to get it.

School leaders said that those that don’t have proper ID or that come up flagged, will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.

Copyright 2019 WALB. All rights reserved.

Source: https://www.walb.com/2019/11/19/lowndes-co-schools-visitors-required-show-id-sex-offender-check/

Proposed homeless home generates concerns


Cindy Supernaw has fond memories of her days as a seventh-grader at Frederica Academy when the school was located in what is now Harpers Joy, a home for the mentally disabled in Brunswick’s downtown historic district.

Frederica Academy held classes for several years in the building after the old Brunswick hospital closed. She’s seen a lot of changes since Frederica Academy moved to St. Simons Island and the building was repurposed as a home for the mentally disabled called Harpers Joy more than two decades ago.

Supernaw lives in a house less than a half block away from Harpers Joy, and like many living in the surrounding area, she has never had a complaint about the residents and believes they are good neighbors.

In fact, when the state tried to close Harpers Joy in 2012, neighbors rose up to express their support for keeping the facility open. After months of protests, and with the help of then State Rep. Alex Atwood, the state backed down and kept Harpers Joy open.

What has dismayed Supernaw and many others is a proposal to turn Harpers Joy into an apartment complex for the homeless. And she’s not alone.

A petition started after last week’s meeting has already generated more than 670 signatures opposing the creation of a homeless home at the old hospital.

There are lots of concerns about how surrounding neighborhoods will be affected if Hand in Hand of Glynn, Inc. goes forward with plans to convert the building, she said.

Critics of the proposal say the old hospital building, located on Norwich Street, is too far from the commercial district downtown — about eight blocks away — for residents to walk through residential neighborhoods to shop, work or go to doctors appointments.

Some have also expressed concerns about the potential for an increase in crime, loitering, noise late at night and the difficulty residents will have grocery shopping, doctor’s appointments and job hunting at the location.

“We need a place for the homeless but not in a residential neighborhood,” Supernaw said. “That’s going to screw up this neighborhood.”

Another neighborhood resident, Melanie Page, said she is concerned the park across the street from the old hospital building will become a magnet for the homeless.

“It’s a bad idea,” she said. “There are no services close to here. It doesn’t make a lot of sense.”

Page said a homeless home should also come with mental health services for some of the residents, which was not mentioned at the meeting by the Hand in Hand of Glynn representatives who spoke. Hand in Hand became a registered charity in Georgia in February and there is no contact information other than a post office box address. Nobody from Hand in Hand could be reached Wednesday for comment.

Anne Stembler, of St. Simons Island, one of the Hand in Hand members who explained the project to a sometimes hostile audience last week, said volunteers have raised more than $500,000 for the project, estimated to cost about $3 million to renovate the building.

What attracted organizers was the building already had 24 efficiency apartments with electricity metered by unit, sprinklers and security cameras already system in place, a recent inspection by the fire department and proper zoning.

Organizers said they would be selective on who would live in the complex. Sex offenders and people convicted of violent crimes would not be eligible to live in the building. Overnight guests would not be allowed and visitors would be required to show identification prior to entering the building, which will have security around the clock.

Supernaw said the current use of the building as a home for the mentally disabled would be ideal. But Gateway officials who manage the property said they have already moved out about one third of the residents, and they plan to move the remainder in coming months.

But if Harpers Joy is determined to move, Supernaw had another suggested use for the building.

“I think the use they have now is the right one,” she said. “It would make a great loft. Even just an apartment complex would be great.”

Source: https://thebrunswicknews.com/news/local_news/proposed-homeless-home-generates-concerns/article_b63986a9-7760-59c5-bbc7-cf3240d876af.html

Teen ‘sexting’ a tough spot for schools, prosecutors


TRAVERSE CITY, Mich. — The conversation always goes the same way.

At least once a semester — often more — School Resource Officer Joe Soffredine takes a seat across from a nervous, fidgeting, eye-contact-avoiding high schooler in an office at Traverse City Central High School in Traverse City, Mich.

She doesn’t know why she’s there.

But the reality sets in quickly as Soffredine clears his throat and prepares the well-rehearsed speech — explaining that Snapchatting those nude photos to her high school boyfriend constitutes a felony.

“Most kids don’t realize,” said Soffredine, who works primarily with students at Traverse City Central and occasionally fields similar calls from parents in the summer. “They don’t really realize what could happen, what kind of trouble they could be facing.”

Teenagers face a wealth of confusing, conflicting new emotions, compounded by evolving sexuality, school-day drama and the task of navigating love and relationships for the first time.

And it comes with growing pains — like the steep consequences of “sexting” and sharing racy pictures via Snapchat, text message, Instagram and other apps.

In Michigan, any minor snapping a lewd selfie could be prosecuted for creating child pornography, a felony with a maximum punishment of 20 years in prison and potentially similar stint on the sex offender registry.

Just saving a flirty pic from a boyfriend or girlfriend younger than 18, regardless of the recipient’s age, can mean a four-year prison sentence. Sending a shot — or as the state calls it, distributing child sexually abusive material — could net seven years behind bars.

Each charge is a felony under Michigan’s 1931 Child Sexually Abusive Material Law, and each comes with mandatory registration as a sex offender.

And nothing in that law specifies the difference between a sexual predator and a 16-year-old taking a braless selfie for her boyfriend. Even young couples older than 16, the state’s age of consent, aren’t safe — they can have sex, but not snap a photo of it.

It leaves police and prosecutors with weighty questions — like how to treat teens who consensually share nudes pictures?

“The law is there to protect children, and these are basically children,” said Grand Traverse County Prosecutor Noelle Moeggenberg. “It’s not something we really want to criminalize.

“The kids we’ve talked to have no idea it’s a crime.”

Moeggenberg’s northern Michigan colleagues share her apprehension.

“(The way) I look at it, did the legislators intend it to apply in this sort of situation?” said Kalkaska County Prosecutor Mike Perreault.

“Kids are kids — I don’t know if they’ve changed much since you or I were young,” added Keith Smith, Kingsley Area Schools superintendent. “The ramifications aren’t immediate, so they don’t realize what they’re doing. Like other at-risk behaviors of kids — drinking, smoking.”

Those waters aren’t so clear, however, when there’s a question of coercion or sharing without permission — the only thing those teens can be charged with in most of these cases is child pornography, Moeggenberg said.

The statute forces prosecutors to take an all-or-nothing approach.

“When you charge someone with a felony, you’ve done a lot to mess up their lives,” said Leelanau County Prosecutor Joe Hubbell. “Just because you could, doesn’t mean you should.”

Numbers prove hard to quantify — each prosecutor said they see a handful of cases each school year, give or take. But they suspect plenty more slip by.

It’s a new problem.

Moeggenberg and Perreault didn’t see anything of the sort until about 10 years ago, and law enforcement back them up. All point to the advent of smartphones fueling the trend.

“It’s kind of the flavor of the times — that’s what we’re dealing with,” Hubbell said. “Everybody now has a smartphone.”

About 30 percent of high-schoolers admitted to sending nudes in a 2014 study printed in the International Journal of Cyber Criminology. Another 27 percent at least considered the act, and 56 percent received nudes.

Another 2014 study, this one conducted by Drexel University, backs that 30 percent finding through a survey of college students about their past sexting behavior.

The Cyber Criminology piece names 17- and 18-year-olds as the most likely sexters, and claims the vast majority of flirty pics are traded between teens in romantic relationships.

And it claims those numbers have only risen with trends of cellphone ownership and technological advances.

“We did stupid stuff as kids, but didn’t have the luxury of technology making it worse,” said Justina Hlavka, a Traverse City resident and parent to a 16-year-old boy. “The ability to do dumb things has become a lot more accessible.”

She approaches the situation by fostering open communication and setting limits on her son’s phone usage.

“The understanding is that there’s no expectation of privacy. If we say ‘Let us see your phone,’ he hands it over,” Hlavka said “I think a lot of it, too, is sitting down and talking about it as a parent.”

Local schools, prosecutors and officers employ a similar method — enlightening teens on the potential consequences of sharing such snapshots.

Soffredine usually gets a call after a parent or teacher catches a teen taking or sending pics. And he finds himself, again, seated with a terrified teen.

“You never know where those pictures will end up,” Soffredine said. “I think it’s important for students to know, for kids to know, for parents.”

From there, he files a report and passes it along to the prosecutor for a final decision. It works the same in Kalkaska, Perreault said, and as long as officers think counseling can address the case, he passes on taking it further.

But age makes a difference — like in a recently filed Missaukee County case, an 18-year-old faces felony charges for swapping pics with his 15-year-old schoolmate.

It’s why education is so important, Soffredine said.

“An 18-year-old (sharing pictures with) a 15-year-old is different — you have an adult in possession of pictures of a 15-year-old,” he said. “That’s one of the big components, teaching kids at 15 and 16 what can happen when you become an adult.”

It’s important that teens understand the severity — just because she’s not filing charges doesn’t mean another jurisdiction wouldn’t, Moeggenberg said.

Five students faced charges in Oakland County in 2014 after investigators discovered dozens of Rochester High School students shared racy images, the Detroit Free Press reported. And Michigan State Police investigators pursued a near-identical case soon after at Romeo High School, in nearby Macomb County.

And while no charges resulted from investigations into a slew of sexting incidents involving Muskegon middle- and high-schoolers in 2016, it left law enforcement and prosecutors concerned, MLive reported.

The cases spread far beyond Michigan’s borders. Several Iowa teens faced criminal charges last February for sharing nudes, the Des Moines Register reported, including a 15-year-old boy. A month before that, Minnesota prosecutors charged a 14-year-old girl with felony distribution of child pornography for a racy Snapchat she sent to a school crush, according to a release from the American Civil Liberties Union.

A judge later dismissed that case.

The cases have the potential to ruin a teen’s future, and makes Moeggenberg and other prosecutors ask whether the laws need a change.

It has been a topic of discussion among the state’s prosecuting attorneys, she said.

Moeggenberg suggests a sexting statute or juvenile court program in which teens complete classes and probation without formal charges on their record.

Other states have already done so.

Earlier this year, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee signed a measure preventing sexting minors from facing felonies — though they could still be charged with misdemeanors, the Associated Press reported.

Virginia lawmakers recently made similar changes, preventing teens from branding as a sex offender in consensual sexting cases, the Washington Post reported, and Colorado bumped punishments for teen sexters down to fines and mandatory education programs.

But Smith isn’t so quick for a change.

“You have to be careful when you’re allowing child porn to exist on some level — I’d much rather see a law with a little teeth applied with common sense, like the Grand Traverse prosecutor is doing,” he said. “Any revision’s gonna have a lot of loopholes.”

It’s important to account for gray areas, like when locker room pictures are shared, Smith said. His students learn about the issues in health classes and counselor-led lessons.

But having the talk at home is equally important.

“I feel like too many people rely on the schools to have that conversation,” Hlavka said.

She may be right.

A 2014 Planned Parenthood poll found that most parents have “the talk,” but they tend to falter with more uncomfortable subjects. A whopping 93 percent of parents feel they’ve done a good job educating their teen and influencing whether they have sex — but just 64 percent of teens back them up.

And it seems sexting is a major source of anxiety when it comes to sitting down for “the birds and the bees,” according to a 2017 study printed in the Pediatric Clinics of North America journal.

“It should be education, it should be teaching our kids to be decent human beings,” Hlavka said. “Be smart about it, use your brain.”

Source: https://www.unionrecorder.com/news/teen-sexting-a-tough-spot-for-schools-prosecutors/article_e6b1d81d-4886-5e73-bd62-9bbc2fcf74a9.html

Sex predator watchdog group may be at odds with police


OPHIS gained quick notoriety for tracking down alleged child sex predators.

ATLANTA — An online watchdog group that gained quick notoriety for tracking down alleged child sex predators may find themselves in trouble with the law.

John Savior, who runs the group OPHIS posted on social media that he has been asked by law enforcement to stop making the videos – otherwise, he could be charged.

The videos shocked metro Atlanta when they were first posted. They quickly went viral.

In the first video posted online, Savior confronts 35-year-old James Crews, who allegedly planned to meet who he thought was a 14-year-old boy at a Walmart in Griffin.

“You think it’s alright for a 35-year-old man to have sex with a 14-year-old boy?” Savior asked in the video. 

“If he consents to it,” Crews responded.

The videos were reminiscent of the old NBC show To Catch A Predator. However, that show often worked with law enforcement while Savior worked alone.

“There’s a reason we have law enforcement. I don’t want everyone in the world … to go out and make traffic stops and pull people over,” said Attorney Randy Kessler who is not affiliated with this case.

On his Facebook page, Savior writes that he will no longer attempt confrontations in Henry County.

“We will be continuing our operations in all other cities and counties at a higher rate. It has been made (abundantly) clear that O.P.H.I.S is not welcome in the Henry County area,” wrote Savior.

11Alive reached out to Henry County Police to see if they, in fact, told Savior to stop. The agency never responded.

The suspect in the original video, James Crews, is still behind bars in Lamar County. He’s charged with enticing a child.

Kessler believes the suspect’s lawyers could have some legitimate concerns about his arrest.

“As a lawyer, if I was defending the guy, I would want to know about the person who caught him. Who is he? What’s his baggage?” said Kessler. “They’re trying to do the right thing. But work with law enforcement”

Savior said he doesn’t plan to stop. He wrote on his Facebook page that, instead, he’ll change his strategies.


Source: https://www.11alive.com/article/news/online-watchdog-told-to-stop/85-de97b5ae-a3be-41a0-99dd-6e51d76c007d

Video of confrontation with accused sexual predator in Walmart goes viral, lands Lamar County man in jail


The 10-minute video was posted by someone who claims to have posed as a 14-year-old boy in order to lure the accused predator.

A viral video of a so-called sex sting making the rounds online has led to an accused sexual predator’s arrest – but police weren’t the ones behind it.

James Crews, 35, has been charged with enticing a child, according to Lamar County authorities. It comes after a video posted to YouTube over the weekend appeared to show Crews being confronted in the hair dye aisle of a Griffin, Georgia Walmart over sexual messages exchanged between Crews and who he thought was a teenage boy.

“I think you know very well that you’re not just here for hair color,” the man recording the video says. “I think you know exactly what you’re here for.”

The man tells Crews he is with a group called OPHIS, described as an online watchdog group. The 10-minute video was posted by someone named John Savior, who claims to have posed as a 14-year-old boy in order to lure Crews to the Walmart to meet. Interspersed throughout the video were screenshots of messages assumed to be exchanged between Crews and Savior posing as the young teen.

“All I was doing was meeting him,” Crews says in the video.

“Meeting who,” asks Savior.

“John, to hang out,” Crews answers.

“What were you going to do with John when you hung out,” Savior presses.

“Go out and grab something to eat,” Crews replies.

Savior confronts Crews about the decoy being 14 years old, something Crews tried explained away, saying he is friends with other boys around that age. 

“Is it acceptable for you to meet with a 14-year-old boy?” Savior continues. 

“No,” Crews replies. 

While the set-up of the video may seem familiar, what makes it odd is that there is no law enforcement around – Savior appears to have gone to the Walmart by himself to confront Crews.  

Ultimately, the video ends with Crews being able to walk off – that’s because Savior admits he’s not a cop, and he can’t make an arrest. 

But once the outrage over the video grew so large, it caught the attention of local authorities. The Lamar County Sheriff’s Office posted about the video on their Facebook page, writing, “We have received numerous calls about this video. We currently have this subject incarcerated on an investigative hold. Investigators are interviewing and conducting search warrants.”

“Thank you for your concerns and bringing this to our attention,” the sheriff’s office added. 

Crews, who lives in Lamar County according to authorities, ultimately was arrested and charged in connection to the confrontation. He’s now in custody in the Lamar County Jail.

11Alive spoke to Savior who admits he was a victim as a child and now works to put predators in jail. And while one investigator told 11Alive he believes Savior’s and the group’s intentions were for the right reasons, they went about them in the wrong way.

Source: https://www.11alive.com/article/news/lamar-county/85-dafa8f35-554e-4968-b0b5-3e719fb2cf85

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