Multi-State Joint Operation Combats Human Trafficking, Exploitation in Tennessee & Georgia

Friday, February 05, 2016 | 04:46pm

CHATTANOOGA – Tennessee Bureau of Investigation Director Mark Gwyn joined Georgia Bureau of Investigation Director Vernon Keenan to announce today the results of a three-day, multi-state effort to combat human trafficking and the online exploitation of children in Tennessee and Georgia.

The agencies conducted “Operation Watchful Guardians” in Chattanooga and Dalton, Georgia, with the partnership of the Chattanooga Police Department, the Hamilton County Sheriff’s Office, the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Dalton Police Department, Homeland Security Investigations, Second Life Chattanooga, and End Slavery Tennessee.

During the operation, TBI and GBI Agents and Intelligence Analysts conducted simultaneous operations that worked to identify, investigate and prosecute traffickers, online predators, and rescue victims.

According to TBI Director Mark Gwyn, the results of “Operation Watchful Guardians” further demonstrated that partnerships among law enforcement are critical in combating these demand-driven crimes. “Cooperation is always important in law enforcement, but it is never more important than when we set out to protect children,” said Gwyn. “This operation gave us an opportunity to share our experience, information and resources, across units, agencies and state lines, to make sure there is no safe place to hide for criminals who would victimize the most vulnerable among us.”

The TBI operation had two different angles. The first involved identifying potential victims of human trafficking, while targeting those attempting to purchase illicit sex. During that aspect of the operation, 168 different men contacted undercover Agents depicted in three online advertisements. Agents arrested 16 men attempting to purchase sex from a prostitute. Agents also arrested four women advertised as prostitutes. This week’s efforts resulted a gun seizure with armor-piercing rounds, as well as drugs and drug paraphernalia. Those arrested included persons from four states ranging in age from 25 to 62, some with active warrants and on active probation.

With the assistance of nonprofit agencies End Slavery Tennessee and Second Life Chattanooga, the undercover operation conducted this week also identified potential victims of trafficking. These women were offered services provided by the nonprofits that include housing, counseling, and addiction treatment.

Those arrested and cited for prostitution-related offenses, enhanced because of the location’s proximity to a school, by the Chattanooga Police Department include:

  • Robert Shrewbury, 54, Breeding, KY                                      
  • Roland Hoeger, 62, Chattanooga, TN                              
  • Clint Lane, 53, Hixson, TN
  • Henry Pabon-Cruz, 42, Unknown                                            
  • Shailesh Chauhad, 37, Unknown
  • John VonKlar, 51, Chattanooga, TN                                         
  • Patrick Dodd, 25, Chickamauga, GA
  • Michael Bosinger, 45, Signal Mountain, TN                        
  • Anthony Wagner, 45, Decherd, TN
  • Mardogueo Alvaredo Lopez, 36, Unknown                         
  • Edwin Tucker, 31, Chattanooga, TN
  • Eddie Riley, 38, North Augusta, SC                                          
  • Daniel Ringhofer, 48, Chattanooga, TN
  • Russell Beesley, 52, Ringold, GA                                             

The second objective focused on identifying individuals searching for sex with minors online. During that course of the operation, TBI Special Agents assigned to the TBI Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force arrested and charged three men who were using the internet in an attempt to find underage girls for sex. TBI’s ICAC Agents are housed within the Technical Services Unit at TBI’s Nashville headquarters and have statewide responsibility for targeting individuals who attempt to victimize children online.

Those arrested and charged by the TBI in connection to this portion of the investigation include:

  • Thomas de Matteis, 53, Hazel Green, AL, Attempted Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • Michael Wyatt, 45, Cleveland, TN, Attempted Aggravated Statutory Rape
  • Jaron Moore, 32, Red Bank, TN, Sexual Exploitation of a Minor by Electronic Means

The collective work by all agencies resulted in additional investigative leads Agents continue to pursue in ongoing investigations. The operation in Dalton, Georgia, executed by GBI, netted twelve arrests.