Charges were part of Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide sting
A sex offender previously convicted in state courts has been has been sentenced to more than 20 years in federal prison after being captured in a nationwide sting while attempting to commit additional crimes against children.
Benjamin Ray, 40, of Honea Path, S.C., was sentenced to 258 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge William T. Moore Jr. after pleading guilty to Attempted Coercion and Enticement of a Minor to Engage in Sexual Activity for incidents that occurred in Chatham County, said Bobby L. Christine, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia. In addition, Ray must serve 15 years of supervised release after completion of his prison term. There is no parole in the federal system.
“There will be no more opportunities for this criminal to prey on children,” said U.S. Attorney Christine. “Thanks to the outstanding effort of our law enforcement partners, his days of catch and release in the system of another state are over.”
According to information presented during his sentencing hearing, Ray has a more than 20-year history as a child predator, starting at age 17 when he was convicted of molesting an 8-year-old girl. After a brief prison term he was convicted at age 22 of molesting an 11-year-old girl. After release from custody, Ray repeatedly was convicted of failing to register as a sex offender.
Ray was arrested in 2019 as part of Operation Broken Heart, a nationwide operation conducted by the Internet Crimes Against Children task forces, after Ray held a vulgar online conversation with an undercover law enforcement officer whom Ray believed to be a child. During the subsequent investigation, officers found evidence that Ray was committing crimes with a real child and seeking 14-year-old victims.
“This criminal will be spending more than a year in jail for every year of his life that he has been molesting and preying on children,” said acting Special Agent in Charge Robert Hammer, who oversees Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) operations in Georgia and Alabama. “Unfortunately, even a 21-and-a-half-year sentence will not restore the innocence of all the children who have fallen victim to this predator.”
Operation Broken Heart led to the arrest of nearly 1,700 suspected online child sex offenders, including two in the Southern District of Georgia. The task forces identified 308 offenders who either produced child pornography or committed child sexual abuse, and identified 357 children who suffered recent, ongoing or historical sexual
During the course of the operation, the task forces investigated more than 18,500 complaints of technology-facilitated crimes targeting children and delivered more than 2,150 presentations on internet safety to over 201,000 youth and adults.
The other Southern District defendant in the operation, Steven Andrew Ross, 30, of Savannah, was sentenced in February to 120 months in prison by U.S. District Court Judge Lisa Godbey Wood after pleading guilty to Attempted Sex Trafficking of a Minor.
The ICAC Program is funded through the Department’s Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) within the Office of Justice Programs (OJP).
The cases in the Southern District of Georgia were 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 Groover.