Decatur County Sheriff’s Office hosts Operation Threat Level Midnight, 4 arrested on child sex crimes

Published 9:40 am Wednesday, March 29, 2023

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Since its creation, the internet has given the public almost unlimited access to information and communication. Unfortunately, it has also given predators increased access to potential victims, with children of all ages now able to access the internet more easily than ever. Law enforcement has consequently had to expand their efforts to combat these sorts of cybercrimes over the years, and Georgia authorities in particular have increased their efforts over the last several years. Specifically, with the Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (GA ICAC TF). This task force recently coordinated a new undercover operation looking to apprehend more of these online predators, “Operation Threat Level Midnight”; an operation which was aimed at targeting the southwest Georgia region, and was hosted by the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office.

The operation is stated to have taken three months to plan, with involvement from 12 law enforcement and prosecutorial agencies. These included, besides DCSO and Bainbridge Public Safety, Homeland Security Investigations, the United States Attorney’s Office, the United States Secret Service, Georgia State Patrol, Seminole county Sheriff’s Office, Colquitt County Sheriff’s Office, Tifton Police Department, Tift County Sheriff’s Office, multiple GBI agencies and offices, and the United States Attorney’s Office.

GBI Special Agent in Charge Brian Johnston spoke to the Post-Searchlight about the operation. In regards to why the operation was hosted here, he said, “The Decatur County Sheriff’s Office and Bainbridge Public Safety are great partners with the GA ICAC TF and wanted to host a proactive operation to prevent children in their area from being victims of online child predators.”

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Operation Threat level Midnight was not the first operation like this; since 2014, Georgia’s ICAC task force has arrested over 166 people in these operations.

The operation saw four individuals from the southwest Georgia/north Florida area arrested. They are:

-Fudenico Ruiz Tum, age 36 of Cairo, Ga., charged with Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude;

-Alex Terrell Harvey, age 36 of Albany, Ga., charged with Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude;

-Jason Zaborske, age 48 of Tallahassee, Fla., charged with Computer or Electronic Pornography and Child Exploitation Act of 2007;

-and David Salas, age 45 of Leesburg, Ga., charged with Trafficking of Persons for Sexual Servitude.

Children should have a healthy understanding of both the pros and cons of the internet. Children need to be aware that communicating with strangers on the internet is not a good thing and that there are people out there that will act like a friend in order to groom the child,” Johnston said. In a previous press release, he also stated, “Proactive undercover operations like Operation Threat Level Midnight uncover some of the darkest most horrific activity that is occurring on the internet. The Georgia ICAC Task Force is committed to the communities it serves by virtue of the 290+ local law enforcement agencies, to include the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office, that have prioritized crimes involving children and specifically technology facilitated child exploitation. Many thanks to the Decatur County Sheriff’s Office and to all the agencies involved for supporting the Georgia ICAC Task Force in this mission.”