A joint press conference was held Friday, (February 9) on the arrest of 16 individuals across the state accused of soliciting, sexually exploiting, or abusing children. The arrests are part of Operation Winter Guardian, which included 44 local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies working together as part of the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (NCICAC).
The Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force is a nationally coordinated effort of 61 regional task forces dedicated to investigating, prosecuting, and effectively responding to internet crimes against children. In North Carolina, the NC State Bureau of Investigation’s Computer Crimes Unit leads the NCICAC Task Force, consisting of more than 250 agencies across the state.
Operation Winter Guardian was a two-part initiative conducted by the NCICAC in January, primarily during the week of January 8 – 12. One phase of the operation consisted of law enforcement investigators acting in an undercover capacity online and participating in chats with individuals seeking to meet juveniles for sexual activity.
Some of those individuals then traveled to a location in Gaston County to meet the person they believed to be a child to engage in those sex acts. The second phase of the operation involved investigators executing search warrants at several locations throughout the state. Those locations were identified as distribution points where child sexual exploitation images were shared.
Through these investigations, at least five children were identified and safeguarded from ongoing sexual abuse. The law enforcement agencies that assisted with Operation Winter Guardian included the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office, Catawba County Sheriff’s Office, Homeland Security Investigations, U.S. Marshals Service, US Secret Service, Federal Bureau of Investigation, and N.C. State Bureau of Investigation.
In January, Haskins was charged with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. The arrest was made by the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office. He remained in the Caldwell County Detention Center as of earlier today (February 11) under $10,000 bond. No upcoming Caldwell County court dates were listed.
Story: Rob Eastwood-WHKY