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April 12, 2024

Three Charged in Sting Operation Targeting Child Sex Trafficking

Covington Police Chief Michael Ferrell today (April 12, 2024) announced that three individuals had been charged with crimes related to targeting children for sex, stemming from a joint investigation led by the Office of the Louisiana Attorney General Liz Murrill's Cyber Crime Unit (CCU) and hosted by the Covington Police Department (CPD), with assistance from Homeland Security Investigations (HSI), United States Secret Service (USSS), the Mandeville Police Department (MPD), and the Washington Parish Sheriff's Office (WPSO).

Arrested on Thursday (April 11, 2024) and booked into the St. Tammany Parish Correctional Center were

- Wendell Swaithes, Jr. (age 74 and of Mandeville) charged with one count of Computer-Aided Solicitation of a Minor and one count of Indecent Behavior with Juveniles.

- Karam Abdalbaqui (age 25 and of Gretna) charged with one count of Computer-Aided Solicitation of a Minor and one count of Indecent Behavior with Juveniles.

- Randolph Burge (age 45 and of Picayune, MS, charged with one count of Computer-Aided Solicitation of a Minor, one count of Indecent Behavior with Juveniles, and one count of Obstruction of Justice.

***All persons are presumed innocent until proven guilty***

The arrests followed an undercover operation aimed at identifying those utilizing websites and online platforms to meet and engage with minors for sexual activity. Investigators placed decoy advertisements on websites known to be associated with prostitution and commercial sex and made themselves available on other common mobile dating applications. It is alleged that the defendants responded to a location in Covington, intending to engage in sexual activity with a minor.

"Through dedicated police work and collaboration, we were able to identify and arrest these individuals, preventing them from inflicting harm on any child," said Chief Ferrell. "These arrests signify a significant victory for our community and a warning to those who try to prey on our most vulnerable."

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