An officer in South Carolina was reportedly arrested in a sex sting operation that was carried out by his own police department, officials announced this week.
According to NBC News, Derek Vandenham, 34, was immediately fired from the Richland County Sheriff’s Department following his arrest on Tuesday. Vandenham, a deputy who had been with the department since August 2015, is accused of using social media or an online chatroom to solicit minors for sex.
The Post and Courier reported that “Operation Relentless Guardian” was a five-day sting operation that resulted in the arrests of 28 men, who range in age from 22 to 72.
Sheriff Leon Lott holds a news conference to discuss the recent Internet Crimes Against Children Operation.
Posted by Richland County Sheriff's Department on Tuesday, August 13, 2019
Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott said they used a different meeting location to apprehend Vandenham so he wouldn’t grow suspicious, Fox News reported.
The ex-deputy was reportedly among 14 men who believed they were corresponding with girls as young as 13. He was also among five people who were arrested after going to an arranged meeting spot. Nine other men reportedly have warrants for their arrest, according to reports.
Vandenham was charged with soliciting a minor and attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor. Lott told reporters on Tuesday that the ex-deputy won’t be offered a plea deal and is hereby banned from ever working in law enforcement in South Carolina.
“[Vandenham] was working on duty in my car, in my uniform, the citizens of Richland County’s, and he was communicating to have sex with a 15-year-old,” Lott said, according to The Post and Courier.
“It made me sick to my stomach to know one of my deputies that I trusted and we put out here in this community was one of these monsters…This is one of the most disgusting things I’ve had to deal with, to have a deputy do something like this.”
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[Featured image: Derek Vandenham/Richland County Sheriff’s Department]