WEST END, N.C. (WNCN) – A 62-year-old Moore County man was arrested Thursday following an undercover investigation aimed at protecting children from online dangers, the sheriff’s office said.
An anonymous tip to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children concerning suspicious activity on Instagram sparked the investigation.
The Moore County Sheriff’s Office, which is a member of the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce, was made aware of that tip.
“The ICAC Task Force tracks down predators who use the internet, online communication systems, or computer technology to exploit children, and the task force also helps prosecutors when those cases go to court,” a release from Sheriff Ronnie Fields said.
The multi-agency investigation involved a lengthy undercover operation and concluded with the arrest of Gene Legrand Hickman.
Hickman, of West End was charged with 15 counts of felony second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and 15 counts of felony third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.
He is being held at the Moore County Detention Center under a $150,000 secured bond.
He’s scheduled to appear in court December 18.
The North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s Computer Crime Unit and the Pinehurst Police Department assisted in the investigation.
“It’s not an easy job to work on cases where you are constantly and visually reminded of the various types of abuse children are exposed to at very early ages. The Moore County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work aggressively to ensure that we are protecting our children from being targeted by these online predators,” Fields said.
The sheriff also said the investigation is on-going and additional charges could be pending.
Anyone with information about this or any other case is encouraged to call the Moore County Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip Line at 910-947-4444.
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