5 people from Anderson Co. indicted on child sex trafficking charges

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GREENVILLE, SC (WSPA) – Five people from Anderson County were arrested and indicted on child sex trafficking charges. Two are also facing child pornography charges.

According to a news release, United States Attorney Peter M. McCoy, Jr., announced Thursday that Gary Garland, Shannon Garland, Johnnie Wells, Michael Skelton and Duwone Allen, were arrested on a multi-count federal indictment charging violations of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of a minor.

The ten-count indictment alleges human trafficking and child pornography violations began at last year in South Carolina.

Gary and Shannon garland are accused of advertising and trafficking two underage family members to engage in “commercial sex acts.”

Anderson County Sheriff Chad McBride said the investigation began this spring.

“Somebody took notice of one of the children involved in the case, and there was some things about the child that they picked up on,” he said. “I think you…that’s kind of how conversations started.”

Three other men are also accused in the case. Johnnie Wells, Michael Skelton, and Duwone Allen are charged with sex trafficking children. According to a spokesperson from the South Carolina U.S. Attorney’s office, the men have admitted to having sexual relationships with the victims, but the suspects have not admitted to knowing they were underage.

Gary Garland is facing more than two dozen charges, including sexual exploitation of a minor, criminal sexual conduct with a minor, trafficking a victim under 18 years of age, dissemination of obscene materials, and giving drugs to a minor.

“The people involved in this case are just sick and demented,” McBride said.

The indictment said the suspects would provide transportation for one of the minors to where commercial sex acts would take place. According to the indictment, the process involved vehicles, public highways, hotels, phones, and the internet.

The Garlands are also accused of using the victims to create child pornography.

“Child sex trafficking is one of the most offensive and reprehensible crimes possible,” McCoy said. “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 case is being investigated by Homeland Security Investigations, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, and the Anderson County Sheriff’s Office.

 “Sex trafficking is a form of modern-day slavery, and these cases are a top priority for HSI investigation,” Special Agent in Charge of Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Charlotte Ronnie Martinez said. “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,” U.S. Marshal Thomas M. Griffin, Jr. said. “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.”

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