North Carolina child sex predator sting results in 16 arrests | #childpredator | #kidsaftey | #childsaftey

The two-part initiative saw investigators go undercover to participate in online chats with suspects looking to meet kids for sexual activity.

GASTON COUNTY, N.C. — More than a dozen people accused of sexually exploiting or abusing children were arrested as part of a multi-agency sting across North Carolina, investigators announced on Friday. 

Operation Winter Guardian was a joint effort between 44 law enforcement agencies across the state, including local, state and federal investigators in an effort to protect children from internet predators. The operation was part of the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children (NCICAC) task force. 

“People think the tips we receive are the creepy pedophiles in the deep dark crevasses of the internet, that is not true at all,” Kevin Roughton, SBI Special Agent in Charge, said. 

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Several of the suspects arrested are from the Charlotte area, including 35-year-old David Anthony Roux, who was charged with indecent liberties. Neal David Wilfong, who is from the Rowan County community of Cleveland, was charged with two counts of indecent liberties by investigators. 

A joint news conference was held in Gastonia on Friday to announce the arrests and findings of the investigation, which ran from Jan. 8-12 with investigators going undercover to participate in online chats with suspects seeking to meet children for sexual activity. Some of those suspects then traveled to an arranged meeting point in Gaston County where they were arrested. 

According to the Gaston County Police Department, in 2019 they investigated 20 cases of internet crimes against children. Just four years later, in 2023, there were more than 140 cases.   

The operation also included investigators executing search warrants throughout the state where child exploitation images were shared. 

Officials say right now, the crime is happening on social media more than ever before. 

“Facebook, Instagram, Google, the players that we all know, that’s where a vast majority of our tips are coming from,” Roughton said. 

Now, there’s a call for parents to have open conversations with their children. 

“There’s no way that we as law enforcement can solely protect children on the internet, it has to be parents working with us to protect children and it has to be education. We have to educate our kids on how to use the internet safely.” Roughton said. 

According to the SBI, from 2019 to 2024, they saw a 589% total increase in cyber tips of these types of crimes. 

Investigators said at least five children were rescued from ongoing sexual abuse during the operation. In total, 16 people from across North Carolina were arrested during the investigation. 

“We are very grateful to have partnered with our federal, state and local law enforcement agencies in Operation Winter Guardian, and the people of our community should be encouraged by the interagency cooperation necessary to successfully complete this operation,” Gaston County District Attorney Travis Page said.

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