BROOKHAVEN — Three men, two from Clayton County and one from Henry County, are in custody following a multi-agency child-exploitation undercover sting leading up to Super Bowl LIII.
“Operation Interception” busted 21 people between Jan. 30 and Feb. 3 who traveled to Brookhaven, allegedly after they communicated through online sex advertising and chat sites to meet a child for sex. Investigators say minors often pose as adults on such sites, where pedophiles find them, send them pornographic images or lure them into sending nude photos, then arrange to meet them in person for sex.
According to DeKalb County Jail records:
• Larry Allen Gordon, 31, of Hampton was arrested Jan. 30 and booked Feb. 2. Gordon faces a felony charge of using a computer service to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child to commit an illegal act.
• Zachary Tye Gourdine, 28, of Conley was arrested Jan. 31 and booked Feb. 2. Gourdine faces felony charges of trafficking of persons for sexual servitude and using a computer service to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child to commit an illegal act.
• Marco A. Mendoza-Escalante, 20, of Riverdale was arrested Feb 2, booked Feb. 3, and charged with “Internet provider intentionally permits subscriber to use service for sexual exploitation of child.”
During the sting, investigators say, multiple suspects were allegedly in possession of illegal drugs, and 24 digital devices were seized and processed.
Participating agencies included the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes (CEACC) Unit, Brookhaven Police Department, DeKalb County District Attorney’s Office, and United States Marshals Service Southeast Regional Fugitive Task Force.
Georgia ICAC Task Force Commander and GBI Special Agent in Charge Debbie Garner said, “This type of cooperation and collaboration is invaluable in the effort to keep our children safe from predators who seek to harm them. This successful operation was a true partnership between all the agencies involved. We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”
Although the sting was related to Super Bowl LIII, police said, the problem happens every day. Investigators credit “a massive effort by law enforcement, non-profit organizations, and victims’ services organizations to educate the public and various industries about the indicators of human trafficking,” adding, “This could be one reason for the decrease in demand activity related to these specific sites during Operation Interception.”
At least 63 cases met the criteria for arrests, officials say, so additional charges and arrests may be forthcoming.