FRANKLIN — In a joint investigation among several departments, eight central Indiana men were arrested on child solicitation charges, according to the Johnson County Sheriff's Office.
In December, Johnson County Sheriff's Office along with the Franklin Police Department, Morgan County Sheriff's Office, Martinsville Police Department and Johnson County Prosecutor's Office conducted a child solicitation sting investigation called Operation Guardian.
Operation Guardian took place in Franklin, where detectives posed as children under the age of 14 in online chat rooms. Such chat rooms consisted of adult men soliciting sex from minors and arranging to meet with the undercover officers.
Although there were "many" adults in these chat rooms actively preying on children for sex, only eight appeared at meetup location agreed-upon with the undercover cops, posing as kids.
The eight suspects are from varying places across central Indiana:
- A 35-year-old Greenwood man
- A 46-year-old Zionsville man
- A 28-year-old Pendleton man
- A 60-year-old Nashville man
- A 34-year-old Franklin man
- A 48-year-old Bloomington
- Two Indianapolis men: A 27-year-old man and 24-year-old man
The suspects are facing several charges, including Child Solicitation, Disseminating Obscene/Pornographic Material to a Minor, Possession of Methamphetamine, Dealing in Methamphetamine, Resisting Law Enforcement, and Driving While Suspended.
"There were even warnings from other individuals in these chat rooms that law enforcement frequently posed as children, but these men still solicited sex despite those warnings," a release from JCSO read.
In a joint statement, the chief of police from all participating departments said the goal of Operation Guardian was to "protect the children in our communities and surrounding areas." But they say law enforcement can't do it alone.
"Parents and guardians need to have an active role in their children’s lives to ensure they are aware of what they are doing on the internet. Parents should keep an eye on what sites their children are visiting and who they are talking to in chats, games, and social media," the release read. "This is an ongoing situation where children are regularly being targeted and seduced by predators to engage in sexual conduct. Please speak to your children about this issue and help eliminate these threats."
One of the eight suspects is currently being held on a 32,000 bond in the Johnson County Jail. The rest have been bonded out with varying amounts.
This case remains under investigation as the Johnson County Prosecutor seeks formal charges.