ILLINOIS (KFVS) - Eight men have been federally indicted for attempting to have sex with a minor on Tuesday, Aug. 6.
According to U.S. Attorney Steven Weinhoeft, this was part of “Operation Independence Day”, a nationwide initiative to combat child sex trafficking.
“Those who exploit children gain access to kids through various means, including social media apps. Cases like these remind us that serious dangers are no further away than a child’s cell phone,” Weinhoeft said. “The beginning of the new school year is a great opportunity for parents to take a closer look at their children’s internet activities and start a conversation about how to stay safe online.”
161 law enforcement operations were executed during the month of July. The FBI also collaborated on the initiative with the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and over 400 federal, state, local, and tribal agencies who participate in the FBI’s child exploitation and human trafficking task forces.
103 child victims were recovered or identified and 67 sex traffickers were arrested nationwide.
In southern Illinois, eight men were arrested and indicted in the Benton Division of the United States District Court for the Southern District of Illinois
“Sex trafficking and child exploitation continue to impact our communities, and we will aggressively enforce the law against those who would prey upon children,” Weinhoeft said.
The eight men indicted are:
• Lawrence A. Bangs, 39, of Herrin, Illinois
• Jesse A. Cantu, 43, of Mt. Vernon, Illinois
• Jorge L. Leal, 34, of Marion, Illinois
• Bret M. Feldscher, 27, of Herrin, Illinois
• Neal J. Keane, 28, of Tucson, Arizona
• James M. Davis, 63, of St. Louis, Missouri
• Hank D. Yoast, 46, of Herrin, Illinois
• Rick E. Garner, 43, of Sesser, Illinois.
The arrests took place between July 19 through July 21 in connection with an online, undercover investigation.
Each of the offense occurred in Williamson County, Ill.
If convicted, the defendants each face a minimum penalty of 10 years imprisonment and could receive as much as life behind bars.
The offense also carries a possible lifetime supervised release and fine of up to $250,000.
All eight men will be held without bond or released on electronic monitoring and other strict conditions mandated by the Adam Walsh Act.