More than a dozen law enforcement agencies worked together on a month-long operation targeting adults accused of contacting children online for sexual activity.

Seventeen men have been arrested as part of the operation. Another man is wanted on charges stemming from messages exchanged with law enforcement officers posing as minors on social media apps.

“We, along with the Lexington Police Department and the South Carolina Attorney General’s Office, served as the host agencies for this operation,” Lexington County Sheriff Jay Koon said. “Officers pretended to be underage teenagers as the suspects messaged them through apps. Some even had phone conversations with officers. After the suspect asked to meet with ‘the child,’ detectives were staged at a predetermined meeting spot to arrest them.”

Most of the messages featured sexually explicit language and images, according to Koon.

“The intent of these suspects during these communications is clear,” Koon said. “They were trying to persuade, entice or coerce someone they reasonably believed to be under the age of 18 to engage in sexual activity.”

No children were ever used or placed in danger during the operation, according to Koon.

“This operation is the result of strong relationships among law enforcement at the federal, state and local levels.” Koon said. “I’d like to thank Attorney General Alan Wilson for making members of his office available for this operation as part of his continued commitment to local law enforcement.”

As members of the state’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the FBI, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Secret Service, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Cayce Department of Public Safety, the Mount Pleasant Police Department, the Charleston County Sheriff’s Office, the Orangeburg County Sheriff’s Office, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office and the Aiken Department of Public Safety also participated in the operation, according to Koon.

The following individuals were arrested and charged:

William Banks, 51, Liberty, South Carolina – attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18

Steven Bradley, 42, West Columbia – two counts of attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, criminal solicitation of a minor, unlawful carry o f a handgun

Darrin Bray, 40, Greenville, Illinois – attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor

Kevin Carpenter, 26, Evergreen, North Carolina – attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18, criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor

Brian Cates, 54, North Augusta, South Carolina – criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18

Geoffrey Dudding, 36, Charlotte – conspiracy to commit criminal sexual conduct with a minor, criminal solicitation of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor, attempted promoting prostitution of a minor

Mark Frick, 54, Gaston – attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, criminal solicitation of a minor

Keair Fuewell, 23, Gloverville, South Carolina – criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18

Landon Gibson, 40, Simpsonville, South Carolina – three counts of attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18, criminal solicitation of a minor

Kane Hicks, 23, Darlington, South Carolina – attempted sexual exploitation of a minor

Walter Huggins, 45, Camden, South Carolina – criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18

David Jones, 51, Pelion – attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, criminal solicitation of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor

Willie Manning, 57, Winnsboro, South Carolina – criminal solicitation of a minor, sexual exploitation of a minor

Joshua Paczowski, 21, Lexington – attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, criminal solicitation of a minor

Misael Quezada, 31, Blythewood – criminal solicitation of a minor

Eric Setterberg, 54, Gadsden, South Carolina – attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor

Charles Templeton, 74, Gaston – criminal solicitation of a minor, attempted sexual exploitation of a minor, attempted disseminating obscene material to a person under 18

Koon said more arrests are expected as investigators pursue charges against other suspects identified during the operation.

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