ANDERSON, S.C. — South Carolina prosecutors say they've arrested a group of suspects--including a husband and wife-- who they say were involved in child sex trafficking and making child pornography.
United States Attorney Peter McCoy Jr. announced the arrests Thursday.
McCoy said Gary Garland, Shannon Garland, Johnnie Wells, Michael Skelton, and Duwone Allen, all of Anderson, were charged on a multi-count federal indictment charging violations of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor and production of child pornography.
The case involved two underage victims.
“Child sex trafficking is one of the most offensive and reprehensible crimes possible,” said U.S. Attorney McCoy. “Sadly, many of the victims and offenders are hidden in plain sight. With support from our federal, state, and local partners, this office will find those who engage in all forms of human trafficking and bring them to justice. This includes those who patronize these victims. We will also continue to work with support groups here in our community to ensure these victims receive the services they need.”
The ten-count indictment says the human trafficking and child pornography violations against the defendants began in 2019 in South Carolina. According to the indictment, the defendants would advertise and transport at the two minors for the purpose of engaging in commercial sex acts. The document goes onto to say the Garlands would take pictures and videos of what went on.
“Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and these cases are a top priority for HSI investigation,” said Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte Ronnie Martinez. “HSI is committed to working with our law enforcement partners to find and prosecute criminal traffickers while ensuring the victims of these terrible crimes are rescued and get the care they need.”
“These are heinous allegations, and this case would not have been possible without the coordinated efforts of federal, state, and local law enforcement departments,” said U.S. Marshal Thomas M. Griffin, Jr. “Any crime against a child is horrific and the United States Marshals Service will utilize any and all available resources so we can bring these offenders to justice.”
This case is being investigated by HSI, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorneys Carrie Fisher Sherard and Winston Marosek of the Greenville office. The United States Marshals Service assisted in the arrest of the offenders.
U.S. Attorney McCoy stated that all charges in this case are merely allegations at this stage and that the defendant is presumed innocent unless and until proven guilty.