Three Bartow men arrested in GBI-TBI operation

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Three Bartow County men were among 35 arrested in a joint operation between Georgia and Tennessee law enforcement agencies. Operation Watchful Guardians targeted online child predators and those who traffic both children and adults in the sex industry, including those willing to pay to have sex with a child. Virgil McKeachie, 38, of Rydal; Carlos Rivas-Canales, 32, of Adairsville; and Warren Hicks, 21, of White were arrested during the three-day period.McKeachie and Hicks were charged with criminal attempt to commit a felony and use/assist of a minor in sexual conduct. Rivas-Canales was charged with trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude, criminal attempt to commit a felony and use/assist of a minor in sexual conduct, according to the Whitfield County Jail. The joint, proactive undercover investigation was coordinated by the Georgia Bureau of Investigation and the Tennessee Bureau of Investigation, along with the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office, the Dalton Police Department, the Chattanooga Police Department, and members of both the Georgia and Tennessee Internet Crimes Against Children Task Forces. Operation Watchful Guardians, centered in Dalton and Chattanooga, was conducted over a three-day period beginning Tuesday. In Georgia, 12 people were arrested over a two-day period beginning Wednesday. Those arrested in Georgia were charged with crimes to include criminal attempt to commit child molestation and criminal attempt to commit trafficking of persons for labor or sexual servitude. One adult was identified and arrested on adult prostitution-related charges. Investigations continue and additional charges may be forthcoming. The arrestees, ranging in age from 19 to 43, traveled primarily from areas around Dalton and Chattanooga, but some from as far as Gwinnett County with the intent to meet a child for sex. Some of those who were arrested had agreed to pay to have sex with the child. One person was arrested with a gun and a butcher knife. Some of their occupations included students, sales associates, tree cutters and truck drivers. McKeachie was unemployed; Rivas-Canales’ occupation was unknown. Hicks is a factory worker and college student.According to Bartow County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Sgt. Jonathan Rogers, the three local men have never “been booked into our jail.”The three also were not listed as registered sex offenders.The Georgia ICAC Task Force is comprised of 200-plus local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, other related criminal justice agencies and prosecutor’s offices. The mission of the ICAC Task Force, created by the U.S. Department of Justice and managed and operated by the GBI in Georgia, is to assist state and local law enforcement agencies in developing an effective response to cyber enticement and child pornography cases. This support encompasses forensic and investigative components, training and technical assistance, victim services, prevention and community education. The ICAC Program was developed in response to the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet, the proliferation of child pornography, and the heightened online activity by predators searching for unsupervised contact with underage victims. By helping state and local law enforcement agencies develop effective and sustainable responses to online child victimization and child pornography, the ICAC program delivers national resources at the local level.The Georgia ICAC Task Force made 244 arrests in 2015. The GA ICAC TF received almost 3,000 tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children in 2015 and worked 3,872 investigations related to child exploitation. The GA ICAC TF also conducted 391 internet safety presentations.