Eighteen men were arrested after they attempted to meet children for sex in Glynn County last weekend.
“Operation Riptide” was a five-day operation conducted by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), which snared the men. They are now charged with computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation. Additional charges could be added, officials said.
The Coweta County Sheriff’s Office was one of the 18 additional law enforcement agencies and prosecutors’ offices that participated in the effort. This marks the third operation the Sheriff’s Office has participated in and Investigator Jason Fetner said he’s grateful for the opportunity to help out.
“This makes a significant impact statewide,” Fetner said. “This is a great example that in the span of only a few days, contact can be made with an offender who is willing to travel to consummate with a 14-year-old child."
The arrestees, ranging in age from 19 to 58, traveled from areas around Brunswick and from North Florida with the intent to meet a child for sex. Some of their occupations included construction worker, pharmacy student, truck driver, food and beverage manager, agricultural worker, restaurant worker, and a commodities trader.
The purpose of “Operation Riptide” was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex. In addition, the operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor.
Online child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex. The children these predators target are both boys and girls.
According to the GBI, the US Secret Service polygraphed eight of those arrested during Operation Riptide – all who gave polygraphed admissions related to the offense for which they were arrested.
Several of those arrested admitted to engaging in similar online activity in the past and were able to identify six previous victims of molestation. Some admitted to viewing child pornography and to previous sexual contact with children.
One offender arrived with drug related items packaged for sale. Additionally, multiple phones and digital devices were seized. Those devices will be processed and analyzed and additional charges may be filed after reviewing the results of that analysis.
“When you talk about the 18 men who were arrested, that’s a huge number,” Fetner said. “Because you’re talking about possibly hundreds of children who won’t be victims because of this effort."
The following were arrested and charged in Glynn County as part of "Operation Riptide":
1. Kenneth Dwayne Baker, W/M, from Waynesville, GA, 24 years of age, occupation -HVAC worker
2. Christopher Oquendo Martinez, H/M, from Jacksonville, FL, 24 years of age, occupation - construction worker
3. Donald Ray Sheffield, W/M, from Jacksonville, FL, 58 years of age, occupation - truck driver
4. Rigoberto Margarito Hernandez, H/M, from Brunswick, GA, 21 years of age, occupation - construction
5. Andrew Chase Lowe, W/M, 19 years of age, from St. Mary's, GA, occupation - landscaper
6. John Robert Schmidt, W/M, 36 years of age, from Jacksonville, FL, occupation - food & beverage manager
7. Samuel M. Lee, A/M, 26 years of age, from St. Mary's, GA, occupation - defense contractor
8. Michael Morrow Foley, W/M, 52 years of age, from Ponte Vedra Beach, FL, occupation - driver
9. Ulbio Quijije, H/M, 26 years of age, from Kingsland, GA, occupation - self employed
10. Andrew Paul Stawniczy, W/M, 25 years of age, from Orange Park, FL, occupation - tire store employee
11. Bryant Keith Taylor, W/M, 35 years of age, from Brunswick, GA, occupation - truck driver
12. Armando Modesto-Sevilla, H/M, 22 years of age, from Waycross, GA, occupation - agricultural worker
13. Joshua Adam Bullard, W/M, 19 years of age, from Kings Bay, GA, occupation - US Navy
14. Aaron Wayne Jacobs, W/M, 27 years of age, Waynesville, GA, occupation – EMT/Fireman
15. Antwan Levar Polite, B/M, 26 years of age, Hinesville, GA, occupation – restaurant employee/student
16. Kevin Scott Kerr, W/M, 48 years of age, St. Paul, MN, occupation – commodities trader/news contributor
17. Troy Austin Piano, W/M, 23 years of age, Jacksonville, FL, occupation – self employed