HALL COUNTY, Ga. – Nearly half a dozen men were arrested following an extensive, proactive undercover investigation by several state and local law enforcement agencies that uncovered their sexual intentions for children.

The Georgia Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, the Georgia Bureau of Investigation’s Child Exploitation and Computer Crimes Unit (CEACC), the Hall County Sheriff’s Office and the Hall County District Attorney’s Office are credited with nabbing five men over a span of four days, starting on Oct. 5.

“This operation is a prime example of interagency planning and cooperation. I am proud that we were able to host the task force at our facility to carry it out. Moreover, I hope that these arrests send a loud and clear message: the exploitation of children will not be tolerated in Hall County,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said. “We will continue to aggressively work together to protect our children.”

PHOTOS: Operation Rattlesnake

The task force included officers from 11 law enforcement agencies, including:

  • Brookhaven Police Department
  • Coweta County Sheriff’s Office
  • Forsyth County Sheriff’s Office
  • Gainesville Police Department
  • Georgia Information Sharing and Analysis Center (GISAC)
  • Hall County Solicitor’s Office
  • Hall Multi-Agency Narcotics Squad
  • LaGrange Police Department
  • Oakwood Police Department
  • Richmond County Sheriff’s Office
  • Roswell Police Department

During what was referred to as, “Operation Rattlesnake,” which was conducted in Hall County, Ga., five were arrested—ranging in ages 23-58, and charged with computer or electronic pornography and child exploitation.

They include:

  • Melo Hairapetian, Morris, Ill., 28, construction worker
  • Baribefe Monkpe, Lawrenceville, Ga, 23, employment unknown
  • Anthony Jordan, Newnan, Ga., 37, unemployed
  • Drake Cook, Athens, Ga., 23, retail
  • James Herndon, Flowery Branch, Ga., 58, pharmacist

They may face additional charges.

One of those arrested was already a registered sex offender with previous convictions for child molestation and statutory rape, Nelly Miles, spokesperson with the GBI, said.

The goal of the sting was to arrest people who chat online with children and consequently travel to meet them for sex. The operation also targeted those willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor.

According to the GBI, during the investigation, detectives had nearly 300 exchanges with subjects on various social media and dating websites. More than 60 of those exchanges, the subject initiated contact with whom they believed to be a minor and directed the conversation towards sex, including obscene or lude content, exposing them to pornography or requesting that the child take nude photos for them.

In 2014, the Georgia ICAC Task Force has arrested nearly 200 in similar operations, 244 in 2015 and 340 in 2016—totaling more than 2,000 arrests since its start in 2002.