SOUTHWEST LOUISIANA (KPLC) - 63 people from across Louisiana have been arrested on child exploitation charges as part of Operation Broken Heart, the Attorney General’s Office announced Monday, June 24. 8 of those arrested were in Southwest Louisiana.
The two-month long operation identified, arrested, and prosecuted people who allegedly produced, distributed, received, and/or possessed child pornography, engaged in the online enticement of children for sexual purposes, engaged in sex trafficking of children, or traveled across state lines or other countries in order to sexually abuse children.
The arrests were all made between April 1 and May 31.
“Sexual exploitation of kids is gut-wrenching and involves unspeakable things that would shock the conscience of everyone. Operation Broken Heart sends a powerful message to predators across the country - law enforcement will find you and we will protect Louisiana’s children,” said Attorney General Jeff Landry.
Federal, state, and local agencies say they’ve seen an increase in predators lurking online, targeting children as young as 3 years old. Officials say the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 18 million tips in 2018.
Nationwide, nearly 1,700 arrests were made in Operation Broken Heart according to the Department of Justice.
David Pool of Dequincy - 96 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13; 2 counts of obstruction of justice
Mark Williamsson of Sulphur - 8 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13
David Wayne Oneal of Vinton - 19 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13
Michael Ryan Heape of Sulphur - 25 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13
Terry Scott Cepowski of Moss Bluff - 5 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13
Caleb Hickman of DeQuincy - 50 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13
Jack Vincent Jameson of DeRidder - 170 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13. Authorities say Jameson is a registered sex offender.
Travis Shane Ryan of Lake Charles - 5 counts of possession of pornography involving juveniles under 13; indecent behavior with juveniles; computer aided solicitation of a minor
Captain Jason Gully, with Sulphur Police, says there are several more arrests that stemmed from this operation.
“I think during Operation Broken Heart there have been 20 arrests in the Sulphur area," Gully said. "Between Sulphur, Carlyss, Vinton, the Westside of the Parish and I believe there are even more arrests pending. Those arrests aren’t necessarily with the task force, but those were other investigations being done at the same time.”
Cpl. Roy Williams, with DeQuincy Police, says this is the first year their department has joined the annual operation through the Justice Department.
“We got involved with Operation Broken Heart through working with our counterparts Sulphur Police, State Police," Williams said. “We try to operate with the mindset of one team, one goal. There’s nothing more rewarding in law enforcement than being able to go after the predators who are preying on the children. That’s the most vulnerable and innocent people in our society.”
Attorney General Landry says, “One of the most dangerous things we can put in child’s hands is a phone.”
Both SWLA agencies stressing the importance of monitoring children’s social media.
“That is a gateway that opens doors to all forms of abuse from sex trafficking, to bullying, to pornography," Williams said. "It’s all there at their fingertips.”
“You know, a friend from school is one thing, but if they’re talking to a stranger from some other state, maybe their even next door, you just don’t know," Gully said. "Just be sure to monitor who your kids are talking to on the internet.”
Click here for more details on all the arrests in Louisiana.