Upstate husband, wife arrested in child sex trafficking investigation
Three others face charges.
ANDERSON, S.C. (WYFF) - An Upstate couple is among five people charged with violations of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and production of child pornography.
Gary Garland, Shannon Garland, Johnnie Wells, Michael Skelton and Duwone Allen, all of Anderson, were arrested on a multi-count federal indictment charging violations of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and production of child pornography, United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy Jr. announced Thursday.
“Child sex trafficking is one of the most offensive and reprehensible crimes possible,” McCoy said. “Sadly, many of the victims and offenders are hidden in plain sight. With support from our federal, state and local partners, this office will find those who engage in all forms of human trafficking and bring them to justice. This includes those who patronize these victims. We will also continue to work with support groups here in our community to ensure these victims receive the services they need.”
The ten-count indictment alleges human trafficking and child pornography violations against the defendants beginning last year in South Carolina, McCoy said.
According to the indictment, the defendants would advertise and transport at least two minors for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts, and the Garlands would produce visual depictions of the minors.
“Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and these cases are a top priority for HSI investigation,” said Charlotte Ronnie Martinez, the special agent in charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI). “HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to find and prosecute criminal traffickers while ensuring the victims of these terrible crimes are rescued and get the care they need.”
“These are heinous allegations, and this case would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement departments,” said U.S. Marshal Thomas M. Griffin Jr. “Any crime against a child is horrific and the United States Marshals Service will utilize any and all available resources so we can bring these offenders to justice.”
This case is being investigated by HSI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by assistant U.S. attorneys Carrie Fisher Sherard and Winston Marosek of the Greenville office. The U.S. Marshals Service assisted in the arrest of the offenders.
McCoy said that all charges in this case are merely allegations at this stage and that the defendants are presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.
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