Local News

March 3, 2013

FBI task force future uncertain as investigation continues

It’s unclear what will happen to an FBI-led task force that has charged numerous men in North Georgia and elsewhere with crimes related to using the Internet to find children for sex.

The task force, which at various times has had officers from the Whitfield County Sheriff’s Office and Dalton Police Department, has fallen under scrutiny since its head, Ken Hillman, became a key figure in an FBI investigation surrounding accusations that several law enforcement officers in Catoosa County may have let him off when he was possibly driving drunk. A Ringgold police sergeant was fired after violating procedures by providing a courtesy ride while on duty to a possibly intoxicated Hillman and the wife and daughter of an area businessman who were with Hillman last fall without telling his supervisors where he went, internal investigation records show.

FBI Special Agent Stephen Emmett, a spokesman for the division that includes Whitfield County, said he couldn’t comment on the matter at all, not even to clarify whether media reports that the task force’s work has been suspended are true.

“We’re not going to be able to discuss that matter because we don’t discuss personnel issues as a matter of policy,” Emmett said.

He declined to comment further. A phone number for the FBI’s Dalton field office went straight to voicemail where a message was not returned. A phone number for Hillman could not be found.

The FBI task force covers several North Georgia counties, including Catoosa, Murray and Whitfield. Officers from local law enforcement agencies provide personnel for the operation. While FBI officials have refused for years to discuss details of how the task force works and any policies governing its members, what is known is that the task force uses law officers to pose on various Internet sites and chat rooms to interact with adults they believe might be looking for sexual encounters with children.

In many cases, the law officer pretends to be an adult and later “admits” to being underage, while in other cases the law officer might pose as an adult offering to let the person on the other end meet up with a child for sex. If the person takes the bait and drives to a location to supposedly meet the underage victim, he finds himself instead arrested and charged with serious sex crimes.

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