Eight men indicted in Williamson County sex sting - WSIL-TV 3 Southern Illinois

Eight men indicted in Williamson County sex sting

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WILLIAMSON COUNTY (WSIL) -- Six men from southern Illinois were federally indicted August 6 after attempting to have sex with children under the age of 18 in Williamson County.

  • Lawrence A. Bangs, 39, of Herrin
  • Jesse A. Cantu, 43, of Mt. Vernon
  • Jorge L. Leal, 34, of Marion
  • Bret M. Feldscher, 27, of Herrin
  • Hank D. Yoast, 46, of Herrin
  • Rick E. Garner, 43, of Sesser

Two others were also arrested in Williamson County.

  • Neal J. Keane, 28, of Tucson, Arizona
  • James M. Davis, 63, of St. Louis, Missouri

The cases are part of “Operation Independence Day”, a nationwide initiative to combat child sex trafficking.

U.S. Attorney Weinhoeft had some advice for parents:

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. 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.

The men were all charged from July 19-21 in connection with an online, undercover investigation. No actual minors were harmed. 

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 term of supervised release and a fine of up to $250,000.

The Department of Justice announced the FBI-led recovery or identification of 103 child victims and the arrest of 67 sex traffickers through Operation Independence Day.

This year, Operation Independence Day consisted of 161 law enforcement operations executed during the month of July throughout all 56 FBI field offices. In addition to working with U.S. Attorney’s Offices, the FBI 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.

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