3 arrested, 1 sentenced in undercover child exploitation operation

3 arrested, 1 sentenced in undercover child exploitation operation
(Source: Gray News)

GULF COAST, Miss. (WLBT) - The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office announced that three men were arrested, and another was sentenced, for child exploitation in an effort known as “Operation Bad Santa.”

The AG’s Office said the Mississippi Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force and its partners used this operation to find individuals attempting to lure children for sex or child pornography.

Operation Bad Santa led to the arrest of three men, and the sentencing of another man, on charges related to the sexual exploitation or enticement of minors.

Phillip Joseph Ferry, 26, was arrested on allegations of possessing child exploitation material. Ferry was apprehended at his residence in Gautier. A stolen firearm was also recovered from the residence.

Ezekiel Amos Ely, 34, was arrested on allegations of sending sexually explicit messages to a child he believed to be 14-years-old. Ely made arrangements to meet the child for sexually explicit conduct at a location in Harrison County. Ely was apprehended at his residence in Vancleave.

Larry Rostchild III, 22, was arrested on allegations of sending sexually explicit messages to a child he believed to be 14-years-old. Rostchild made arrangements to meet the child for sexually explicit conduct at a location in Harrison County. When Rostchild arrived at the agreed upon location, he was taken into custody.

Zachorey Taylor Compton, 24, who was already registered as a sex offender, entered an open plea to two counts of child exploitation and was sentenced on Thursday, December 17 by Harrison County Circuit Judge Christopher Schmidt to 16 years in the custody of the Mississippi Department of Corrections. He will be subject to five years post-release supervision.

“Unfortunately, child exploitation cases are on the rise as predators seek to exploit the increasing number of children and teenagers using the internet unsupervised. I am committed to putting an end to the victimization of our most vulnerable through child exploitation and pornography,” said Attorney General Lynn Fitch. “I would like to thank the many law enforcement officers, investigators, prosecutors, and others who assisted in this operation for their hard work this week. Together, we will continue to pursue justice for victims of child exploitation in Mississippi.”

Investigators say additional arrests may be made.

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