16 arrested in NC child predator sting

Investigators announced Friday that 16 arrests have been made, including a Caldwell County man, in a North Carolina child predator sting. Operation Winter Guardian was a collaborative effort involving 44  local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, targeting individuals exploiting children online. 

The operation involved undercover investigators engaging with suspects in online chats between January 8th and January 12th, leading some of the suspects to arranged meetings in Gaston County where arrests were made. 

Among those arrested in the sting operation was Larry Ray Haskins, 34 of Lenoir who was identified by investigators at  a joint news conference held in Gaston County on Friday. 

Haskins was arrested by Caldwell County Sheriff’s deputies in January and changed with second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor. He’s been held at the Caldwell County Detention Center since his arrest under a $10,000 bond.

SBI reports that , from 2019 to 2024, there has been a total increase of 589% in cyber tips of these types of crimes.

Gaston County Police Chief Stephen Zill speaks during a press conference about Operation Winter Guardian Friday afternoon, Feb. 9, 2024, at the Gaston County Police Department.
Photo by The Gaston Gazette