Federal grand jury indicts 3 Horry County men in child sex trafficking, exploitation case
COLUMBIA, S.C. (WMBF) – Three Horry County men have been indicted by a federal grand jury for their alleged roles in a child sex trafficking and exploitation case.
The case involved activity spanning from Arizona to South Carolina, with the victims being from the Pee Dee and Midlands regions of the Palmetto State, a press release from the U.S. Attorney’s Office stated.
Theodore Woolings Bye, III, 36, of Myrtle Beach, has been charged with conspiracy to sexually traffic a minor, sexual trafficking of minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor, two counts of production of child pornography, two counts of coercion and enticement of a minor, and possession of child pornography.
Sanadin Mohamed Elrayes, 28, of Surfside Beach, and Charles Joseph Spillane, 44, of Myrtle Beach, have both been charged with conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor.
Authorities said a fourth man, Hart William Grow, 25, of Surprise, Arizona, has been charged with conspiracy to sexually traffic a minor, sexual trafficking of minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor, four counts of production of child pornography involving two victims, four counts of coercion and enticement of a minor involving two victims, and possession of child pornography.
“It’s a huge victory. This was an arrest of four people who were preying on young children,” said Capt. Sherri Smith with the Coastal Region Human Trafficking Task Force.
The indictment alleges that since at least April 2020, Grow and Bye conspired to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize, and solicit a minor victim in South Carolina to engage in a commercial sex act.
Grow, from his home in Arizona and through the internet, allegedly misrepresented to various minors across the country that he was also a minor and was interested in a relationship. Authorities said Grow claimed to a minor victim that he was a 17-year-old girl named “Hannah” living in Columbia. A criminal complaint states that the two met on a social media app called “wattpad” and then they started chatting through SnapChat.
“Using this false persona and promising love and affection, Grow groomed the minor victim to fall in love with “Hannah.” It was then, the indictment alleges, that Grow abused his position of trust with the minor victim to enter into a sexual dominant/submissive relationship, to hold absolute power and control over the victim, and to employ bondage/discipline, domination/submission, and sadism/masochism (“BDSM”) techniques. Threatening the minor victim if the victim did not obey his BDSM rules, Grow required the victim to engage in often-violent sexual acts with adult men that the victim did not otherwise wish to engage with,” the release stated.
According to authorities, Grow used message boards and social media to make his minor victim available to adult males for sexual encounters in exchange for the men sending visual depictions of the sexual encounters to him.
According to the victim, under the direction of Grow, her first sexual encounter happened with a male school teacher, the criminal complaint states. The school teacher has not been identified. The encounters were video recorded and sent back to “Hannah,” according to court documents.
Grow allegedly required the adult males to produce, or assist in the production of, a visual depiction of the often-violent sexual acts. One such male, according to the authorities, was Bye.
Authorities said Bye not only practiced in the sexual acts with the victim but also made the victim available for sex on numerous occasions to other men.
The indictment allege Bye would transport the victim to various locations in and around Myrtle Beach for commercial sex acts and would use internet message boards, social media, and text messages to make the victim available to other adult males for sexual encounters.
The criminal complaint shows that some of the sexual encounters were traced to the Comfort Inn and Quality Inn in Surfside Beach.
The minor victim’s availability for the sexual encounters was predicated on the agreement with the adult males to produce and send visual depictions of the acts to Grow, the release stated.
Elrayes and Spillane allegedly responded to Bye’s internet postings and after communicating with Bye via social media and text messages, engaged in sexually explicit conduct with the minor for the purpose of producing a visual depiction of the acts, authorities said.
The indictment also alleges that early this year, after Grow had trafficked the first minor victim, he began communicating with a second minor victim in South Carolina.
According to court records, Grow coerced the second minor into producing visual depictions of sexually explicit conduct until shortly before his arrest in Arizona.
Authorities said the defendants used social media applications, including Snapchat, Wattpad, and Kik to communicate with the victims and with each other.
Grow and Bye face a maximum penalty of life, while Elrayes and Spillane face a maximum penalty of five years. All men are currently detained.
“While this indictment speaks for itself, human trafficking and child exploitation are vile crimes, and this office will swiftly and aggressively prosecute those who prey upon minors,” said Acting U.S. Attorney M. Rhett DeHart.
Meanwhile, Smith said that these kinds of cases serve as a crucial reminder for parents to ask questions about what their child is doing with their phone, including who they’re talking to and what apps they’re using.
“Start asking questions about that new friend, who are they, where are they from, where do they go to school? You need to know who your kids are following and who’s following them,” said Smith.
All four suspects in the case have pleaded not guilty to the charges.
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