82 arrested, 17 children rescued in sweeping exploitation case across Southeast

(WCJB) -- A large operation targeting sexual exploitation and child pornography led to the arrest of 82 people and the rescue of 17 children in eight states across the Southeastern and Mid-Atlantic United States.

(SOURCE: MGN)

The operation, titled Operation Southern Impact III, was coordinated by 10 Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Forces across the states. Local and state law enforcement agencies were involved, as various agencies targeted persons possessing and distributing child porn, as well as those sexually exploiting children in other ways using the internet.

According to a release from the Georgia Bureau of Investigations, planning for the operation started around the beginning of January before culminating in three days of actions including search warrant executions, undercover operations, arrests and sex offender compliance verification visits.

The states involved in the operation are: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Maryland, North Carolina, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. In total, 171 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies participated.

Here are the facts:

- 82 arrestees ranged in age from 20 to 70. Their careers ranged from small business owners to mechanics to daycare administrator to youth group leader and a former high school band director.
- 134 search warrants were executed and 215 "knock and talks" were conducted.
- 861 digital devices were assessed and 1,613 digital devices were seized. 203 of those were mobile phones.

This is a developing story. Agencies in North Central Florida involved were not immediately available for comment, but as information becomes available regarding arrests this article will be updated.