YORK COUNTY, S.C. (WJZY) – Ten suspected child predators have been arrested as part of a sweeping sex sting dubbed “Operation Home Alone,” the York County Sheriff announced Monday.
“Watch your kids online,” said Sheriff Kevin Tolson. “Don’t think that it can’t happen to you. You cannot be too cautious with your children’s activity on their devices.”
Predators could be taking advantage of the pandemic to try to lure kids who are at home and online more often, Tolson said. The men arrested range in age from 25 to 60 and are from all across North and South Carolina. Some traveled four hours to meet a minor for sex.
The suspects were actually talking to undercover officers, who used various social media applications and pretended to be between 10 and 17 years old, Tolson said. Investigators used a vacant home in Fort Mill from March 10-14. Thirteen local, state and federal law enforcement agencies took part including the FBI, Homeland Security and Secret Service. More arrests and additional sting operations could be coming, the sheriff warned.
Among those arrested is auto mechanic Scott Pless, 52, who was not happy to see FOX 46 investigative reporter Matt Grant.
“We’re with FOX 46,” said Grant. “We’re doing a story about your arrest. Do you have anything to say?”
Pless drove into his driveway, got out of his car, and walked over to Grant.
“Go. Get off my property. Leave,” he yelled. “Leave.”
“We’re on the public street. We’re not on your property,” said Grant.
“Leave,” yelled Pless. “Leave.”
“Do you have anything to say?,” asked Grant.
“No,” said Pless. “Leave me alone.”
“Were you trying to talk to a 14-year-old girl on Kik?,” asked Grant.
Pless got back in his car, slammed the door, and drove into his garage. Neighbor Vickie Goodman sees Pless every day and is stunned.
“Unbelievable,” she said, when told about his arrest.
“Is that concerning to you?,” asked Grant.
“Yes it is,” said Goodman. “Very. Especially in a very small community like this.”
In some cases, the undercover investigators posed as parents willing to prostitute their own child, court records show. Joseph Varalli, 30, is accused of offering to pay $50 to have sex with someone he thought was a 14-year-old.
“Normal people. They look like normal people,” said Joseph Varalli’s twin brother, Josh, when shown a print out of the 10 suspects who were arrested. “You mean to tell me all these guys are out here chasing around young women?”
He says his brother told him he was on a dating app and thought he was meeting someone of legal age. He doesn’t believe the charges against his twin brother.
“I know my brother,” he said. “I know my brother’s not here chasing around little girls. I can tell you that.”
“The sheriff says he offered to pay $50 to have sex with a 14-year-old,” said Grant.
“I highly doubt that,” he said. “I very highly doubt that.”
Investigators warn parents to monitor what their kids are doing on applications like Kik, Skout, Whisper and TikTok.
All of the suspects face various child exploitation charges. Eight of the 10 suspects bonded out of jail.
- David Medina Osorio, 34, Rock Hill, S.C. Unemployed. Charges: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor second degree, criminal solicitation of a minor.
- Donald Dewaine Dorsey, 42, Indian Land S.C. Unemployed. Charges: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor second degree, criminal solicitation of a minor.
- Jose Jesus Garcia-Arellano, 25, Goldsboro, N.C. Unemployed. Charges: Sexual exploitation of a minor first degree, criminal sexual conduct with a minor second degree, criminal solicitation of a minor (x2), disseminate obscene material to a person less than 18-years-old.
- Joseph Scott Varalli, 30, York, S.C. Unemployed. Charges: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor second degree, promoting the prostitution of a minor.
- Keith Alan Grey, 44, China Grove, N.C. Occupation unknown. Charges: Criminal solicitation of a minor, criminal sexual conduct with a minor – victim under 11 years of age first degree, sexual exploitation of a minor first degree.
- Michael John Worley, 48, Canton, N.C. Occupation: Construction. Charges: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor second degree, registered sex offender in North Carolina. Just released from federal prison November 2020. Off house arrest March 1, 2021.
- Scott Robert Pless, 52, Rock Hill, S.C. Occupation: Auto body mechanic. Charges: Criminal solicitation of a minor.
- Walter Glenn Witherspoon, 41, Le Grange, N.C. Occupation: Truck driver. Charges: Criminal sexual conduct with a minor second degree, promoting the prostitution of a minor.
- Dennis James Hastings, 60, Chester, S.C. Occupation: Machinist. Charges: Sexual exploitation of a minor first degree.
- Nilesh Karthikeya Aleti, 29, Charlotte, N.C. Occupation: Independent software company. Charges: Promoting the prostitution of a minor.