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Augusta, GA

Online sting for child predators nets 3 local residents

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Online sting for child predators nets 3 local residents


GROVETOWN, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Three local residents were arrested in an online sting operation to catch sex predators.

The arrests stemmed from “Operation Sweet Tee,” conducted by the Grovetown Police Department and the Georgia Bureau of Investigation Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Three local residents were arrested:

  • Rubicel Castro-Cruz , 33 of Edgefield.
  • Anthony Daquan Harley, 30, of Aiken.
  • James Charles Waller, 31, of Evans.
From left: Rubicel Castro-Cruz , Anthony Daquan Harley and James Charles Waller.(Contributed)

Each was charged with one count of sexual exploitation of children and committed to the Columbia County Detention Center, according to police.

From Thursday evening through early Sunday, undercover agents and investigators engaged with more than 1,000 individuals, via the internet, according to police.

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Of those, 157 verified adults expressed a desire to meet for sexual activity, despite being told they were conversing with a child, according to the Grovetown Police Department.

Of that number, 12 stated they would be willing to travel to meet with the so-called child for sex and offered payment in exchange, police said. Some of the individuals engaging in the chats lived as far away as Chattanooga, Tennessee.

The investigation continues and additional charges are expected. Multiple electronic devices and two vehicles were seized as part of the operation.

In addition, an out-of-state registered sex offender was identified as one of the individuals attempting to arrange a meeting for sex with the so-called child, and a warrant has been issued for them as well.

Investigators are working to positively identify the remaining individuals engaged in the solicitation and additional charges and arrests are expected.

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Augusta, GA

Augusta leaders get a look at Brigham Community Center renovations

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Augusta leaders get a look at Brigham Community Center renovations


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – We’re getting a look at renovations happening over at the Henry Brigham Community Center.

On Wednesday, Augusta Department of Parks and Recreation staff took city leaders on a tour for all of the progress.

Back in 2022, the center closed to start the multimillion dollar project.

You can expect a brand-new kitchen, dance hall, weight room, locker rooms and sauna and steam.

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The new gym can hold up to 500 people.

An e-sports room is coming too.

The original projected price was $8.3 million, and it came in slightly over budget at $8.6 million to $8.7 million.



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Augusta, GA

2 buildings damaged in church fire along Essie McIntyre Boulevard

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2 buildings damaged in church fire along Essie McIntyre Boulevard


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Augusta Fire Department crews responded to a blaze Tuesday afternoon at a church at Essie McIntyre Boulevard and Meadow Street.

The fire at Fellowship Baptist Church didn’t injure anyone but damaged two buildings.

It broke out around 4 p.m. in a light-colored concrete-block storage building.

The back part of a building burned, with smoke pouring out a window, blackening the area around the opening.

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“Upon arrival, those crews witness smoke and flames coming through the front door on the right side,” said Augusta Fire Chief Antonio Burden.

The heat from the flames melted and warped the gray vinyl siding of a nearby building that was being renovated to serve as a fellowship hall.

Pastor of the Fellowship Baptist Church of Augusta, Morris Jones, said: “I’m thankful. I’m grateful that it was contained and it didn’t do more damage. I was at work and got that, that notification and saw that fire and said, ‘Wow.’ I initially called the fire department, and police department and just went into prayer because the last thing I wanted was for someone to get hurt.”

The goals of the church will remain the same moving past the flames.

“The future of this building is going to be a fellowship resource center. We’re going to use it for the children of this community and feed the community like we use it now. Hopefully, we make a difference. In this neighborhood,” said Jones.

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This building at Essie McIntyre Boulevard and Meadow Street was damaged by a fire on April 23, 2024.(WRDW)

According to Richmond County dispatchers, the fire was first reported at 4:03 p.m. Tuesday.

Witnesses reported large flames in the area around 4:10 p.m.

About eight firetrucks responded.

Burden said the cause of the blaze is under investigation.

Jones wants his congregation and community to know they’ll rise from the ashes.

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“God is still in control. We know things are gonna happen, but as long as we trust God, everything to work out,” said Jones. “Continue to trust God, pray and see what God does next because He’s gonna do some powerful things in this neighborhood. We just got to be ready to position so when he acts we can move on time.”

The main worship area was untouched by the flames, so church services there would go on as normal.



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Augusta, GA

Augusta experts share important warning signs of human trafficking

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Augusta experts share important warning signs of human trafficking


AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) – Georgia ranks sixth in the nation for sex trafficking, and local experts say Richmond County sees more child sex trafficking than anywhere else in the state.

For a problem that is growing not only in Georgia but nationwide, experts say there’s a huge misconception surrounding human trafficking.

“I think our generation got introduced to the topic of human trafficking through movies like Taken or Sound of Freedom. But the reality is that’s not what trafficking looks like in our community. It’s not what it looks like in most communities,” said District Attorney Jared Williams.

On Tuesday, experts who deal directly with sex crimes and trafficking in the Augusta community explained to students at Augusta University that trafficking looks like comfort and trust.

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Richmond County Sheriff’s Office Investigator Terry Gore said: “You always think of the man in the white panel van with puppies on the side. No. Traffickers are family or friends.”

Williams said: “It’s often familial, meaning that there’s a family member who’s involved in exploiting their loved one or it’s gang-related. We see a lot of that.”

And there is no safe age.

“The youngest victim that I have right now is 4 days old. My youngest person that’s been sending out nudes is 6. These people got a hold of her at 6 years old to send them out,” said Gore.

Clarence “Bo” Johnson

The way to reduce the numbers is to first know the signs.

GBI Agent Anita Ivy said: “In school, you’ll notice a lot of absences, change in behavior, and appearance, dressing provocatively and carrying two cell phones.”

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The best way to combat it is by supporting resources in the community.

Williams said: “We have a lot of great organizations like Child Enrichment, who are doing a lot. We have the Sexual Assault Resource Center, they’re doing a lot to help. But we need more funding for those organizations and we need better access to care and treatment after the fact.”

Leaders say to talk to your kids about what is going on in their lives and check their cell phones and the apps they are on.

Be aware of the time they are on the devices.

Assembly of Prayer, Augusta

Also in the news

  • On Wednesday, Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp and first lady Marty Kemp will be joined by state and local leaders at a ceremony to sign bills fighting human trafficking. At 10 a.m. at the state Capitol in Atlanta, the governor will deliver remarks prior to signing Senate Bill 370, House Bill 993 and House Bill 1201.



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