A dean at Valdosta State University in Georgia was arrested over the weekend in a child sex crime sting operation dubbed “Operation Broken Arrow,” PEOPLE confirms.
Keith Walters was arrested during the four-day sting that took place Feb. 6 through Feb. 9, the Lowndes County Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE.
The 44-year-old — who was named the dean of the university’s College of Science and Mathematics in June 2019 — is charged with three counts of “obscene internet contact with a child” and one count of “use of a computer service to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice a child,” which falls under “sexual exploitation of children,” a spokesperson for the Sheriff’s Office says.
Jessica Pope, a spokesperson for Valdosta State University, tells PEOPLE that Walters was placed on “immediate administrative leave pending the outcome of internal and law enforcement investigations into these very disturbing allegations.”
“VSU remains committed to assisting law enforcement’s investigation in any way,” Pope adds.
Walters was just one of 14 people arrested, which took months of planning and involved 17 law enforcement agencies.
According to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation (GBI), “the goal of ‘Operation Broken Arrow’ was to arrest persons who communicate with children on-line and then travel to meet them for the purpose of having sex.”
“Additionally, the operation targeted those that are willing to exploit children by purchasing sex with a minor,” the agency said in a statement. “Online child predators visit chat rooms and websites on the internet, find children, begin conversations with them, introduce sexual content and arrange a meeting with the children for the purpose of having sex.”
Over the course of the operation, the suspects thought they were talking to minors when they were actually in communication with undercover agents. They were subsequently arrested when they traveled to meet them for sex, according to GBI’s statement.
“Over 40 cases were established that met the threshold for arrest. Fourteen (14) of those cases were concluded with arrests,” the GBI said. “In some of these cases, the subject introduced obscene or lewd content, often exposing the minor (UC) to pornography or requesting the child take nude or pornographic images for them.”
Walters had an arraignment hearing on Monday where he was denied bond, the Sheriff’s Office tells PEOPLE. He is scheduled to appear for a bond hearing on Wednesday.
It is unclear if he has entered a plea.
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