N.C. operation leads to rescue of 8 children from sexual abuse, 23 child exploitation arrests

N.C. operation leads to rescue of 8 children from sexual abuse, 23 child exploitation arrests
A North Carolina operation has led to the rescue of eight children from sexual abuse and at least 23 child exploitation arrests. (Source: Pixabay)

NORTH CAROLINA (WBTV) - A North Carolina operation has led to the rescue of eight children from sexual abuse and at least 23 child exploitation arrests.

A man who pleaded guilty to transportation of child pornography was sentenced Wednesday.

Dustin Davis Haynes, 34, of Lexington, North Carolina, pleaded guilty on March 2 to one count of transportation of child pornography. He was sentenced to nearly five and half years (65 months) in prison followed by 10 years of supervised release.

Haynes was the first individual arrested after a Boone Police Department detective infiltrated a private group on a mobile messenger app dedicated to the sexual exploitation of children and the trafficking of child pornography.

According to documents filed in the case, the detective, pretending to be a 14 year-old girl, convinced an administrator to add him to the group. Once accepted, the detective was able to gain access to additional similar private groups.

Several days later, the detective and agents from the State Bureau of Investigation (SBI) and Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) executed a search warrant at Haynes’s home and arrested him.

Over the next several months, SBI, HSI, and the Boone Police Department detective worked to identify additional group members and sent leads throughout the country, and the world.

Many of the offenders had taken significant steps to mask their identities. The investigative team engaged these offenders online and tricked them into revealing personal identifying information.

In total, 38 leads were sent to various law enforcement entities.

To date, 23 offenders have been arrested and eight children have been rescued from sexually abusive situations.

Officials say a man was quickly arrested and his 14 year-old daughter was rescued. He had been sexually abusing her for ten years. Another individual was arrested on an oil rig in the North Sea and his 5 year-old daughter was rescued.

“Protecting children is a high calling,” said U.S. Attorney Matt Martin. “The Boone Police Department, the NC SBI, and the Department of Homeland Security are answering the call. The excellent proactive work of the investigators in this case has undoubtedly changed victims’ lives for the better and safeguarded others. I am proud that an investigation that began here in North Carolina has resulted in such a positive impact across the country, and even abroad. This case is an example of the effective local, state, and federal law enforcement partnerships required to fully combat online child sexual exploitation. Such partnerships are the heart of the Internet Crimes Against Children [ICAC] Task Force and more necessary now than ever as we have recently seen an alarming year-over-year increase in CyberTipline reports from the National Center For Missing and Exploited Children [NCMEC]. It takes courage to confront depictions of unspeakable sexual abuse, often amounting to torture, in order to bring child sex offenders to justice. The investigators in this case deserve our deep gratitude.”

“Individuals who distribute child pornography steal the innocence of children and revictimize them each time the evidence of their exploitation is shared online,” said Homeland Security Investigations Charlotte Special Agent in Charge Ronnie Martinez. “This case shows HSI is actively working to identity and disrupt the trade of these illegal images, and also to identify and seek prosecution of the criminals who produce, possess, and distribute them.”

The case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative by the Department of Justice to combat online child sexual exploitation and abuse.

Led by United States Attorneys’ Offices and the Criminal Division’s Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section (CEOS), Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state, and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the Internet, as well as to identify and rescue victims.

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