SC deputy caught in child sex sting by his own department

Around the South

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) — A South Carolina sheriff’s department says it caught one of its own deputies last week in a child sex sting that netted over a dozen other people.

The State reports Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott announced the arrest of Deputy Derek Vandenham on Tuesday. Twelve other law enforcement agencies assisted in “Operation Relentless Guardian,” during which deputies pretended to be 13- to 15-year-old girls and chatted with men online.

Derek Vandenham (Richland County Sheriff’s Office)
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The men who solicited sex from the “girls” were arrested at an agreed upon meeting site. Lott says the meetup site was changed so Vandenham wouldn’t know he was about to be arrested and the uniformed deputy arrived in his patrol car. He was immediately fired.

The sting also led to the arrest of former transportation commissioner 72-year-old John Norton Hardee.

Vandenham and Hardee are no longer in custody, according to arrest records.

— CBS 17 contributed to this report

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