Prosecution targeted predators in Operation Broken Heart
A Savannah man will spend a decade in prison for attempting to traffic a child for sexual exploitation.
Steven Andrew Ross, 30, of Savannah, was sentenced to 120 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood after pleading guilty to Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Minor, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. Ross will be required to serve 10 years of supervised release after completion of his prison sentence. There is no parole in the federal system.
“Child predators continue to pollute the online atmosphere, creating a dangerous environment in what otherwise should be safe access to the information superhighway,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Our office and our dedicated law enforcement partners continue to be relentless in pursuit of those who would target innocent children for exploitation.”
Ross was charged in Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide Department of Justice operation conducted in April and May of 2019 by the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, in which nearly 1,700 suspected online child sex offenders were arrested. Also charged in the Southern District of Georgia was Benjamin Ray, 39, of Honea Path, S.C., who pled guilty and is awaiting sentencing.
Evidence presented at sentencing showed that Ross was communicating online with an undercover agent that he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. While repeatedly confirming the girl’s age, Ross expressed interest in paying the child to have sex, requested photos of the child engaging in sex with others, and sought to produce child pornography with the child.
“Sex trafficking, enabled by the Internet, continues to be a serious threat facing our nation’s youth and Savannah is not immune from that threat,” said Acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees HSI operations in Georgia and Alabama. “HSI will continue to collaborate with our law enforcement partners in the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force to unmask these child predators who attempt to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet.”
The case was investigated by Homeland Security Investigations and the Savannah Police Department, in conjunction with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney Tania D. Groover.