YORK, S.C. (WBTV) - A total of 10 potential child predators are under arrest, after what the York County sheriff is calling a “significant operation.”
Operation Vigilant Shepherd is a partnership between the sheriff’s office and other national and local agencies, to track people down who they say are targeting children online, for sex.
“Children are the most vulnerable and innocent part of our population,” Ronnie Martinez of Homeland Security says. “And these predators capitalize on that.”
These law enforcement officers are warning parents of the dangers online, in the form of predators on the other side of the screen.
“Just as we want our streets safe, we want our internet safe,” York County Sheriff Kevin Tolson says.
The 10 men arrested through this operation include a now former visiting assistant professor of Davidson College. The college says 38-year-old Michael Bovino of Mooresville, NC was “placed on leave and barred from campus immediately following the arrest.”
The other nine men are 35-year-old trucking professional Ballam Alexander of Charlotte, NC, 23-year-old Marine corporal of Wapakoneta, OH Alexander Bowersock, 29-year-old electrician Jerry George of Boiling Springs, SC, 51-year-old retiree Steven Loflin Sr. of Greensboro, NC, 34-year-old Aaron Snyder of Lake Wylie, SC, 29-year-old suit salesman Albert Cortes of Huntersville, NC, 32-year-old construction worker Jonathan Hartsell of Charlotte, NC, 22-year-old security guard Quentin Evans of Indian Trail, NC, and 44-year-old salesman Xanthus Murdaugh of Rock Hill, SC.
All 10 men all charged with sex offenses, officers say, thinking they were talking to a child online. They add that five of the men thought they were meeting a child between 11 and 14 years old, in York County, for sex.
“It’s very possible that if these suspects had not been identified and arrested talking to an officer, they would’ve been talking to a live child,” Tolson says.
He says officers used different social media apps to communication with these men.
“Let this be a warning to anyone out there thinking that they’re hiding from the law as they prey on innocent,” Tolson says. “We are watching, and we will find you.”
This investigation is not over. The sheriff says officers and deputies are still working to identify seven victims, and he says there will also be more arrests coming in the next few days and weeks.