A multi-agency operation led by Moore County Sheriff’s Department has yielded the arrest of a West End man Thursday on 30 counts of sexual exploitation of a minor, according to a news release from the Moore County Sheriff’s Office.

Gene Legrand Hickman, 62, was jailed under a $150,000 secured bond and is charged with fifteen counts of felonious second-degree sexual exploitation of a minor and fifteen counts of felonious third-degree sexual exploitation of a minor.

The alleged offense dates are listed on Moore County Detention Center as March 7, 8, 20, 2018, June 5, 2018 and December 12, 2019.

The lengthy investigation began with a tip “submitted to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC) in regard to suspicious activity through Instagram.”

NCMEC contacted Moore County Sheriff’s Office “who is a participating agency with the North Carolina Internet Crimes Against Children Taskforce.”

“It’s not an easy job to work on cases where you are constantly and visually reminded of the various types of abuse children are exposed to at very early ages,” said Moore County Sheriff Ronnie Fields. “The Moore County Sheriff’s Office will continue to work aggressively to ensure that we are protecting our children from being targeted by these online predators.”

Aiding in the investigation was Pinehurst Police Department and North Carolina State Bureau of Investigation’s Computer Crime Unit.

The investigation “is on-going and additional charges could be pending.” If anyone has information on this case, please call the Moore County Sheriff’s Office Crime Tip Line at 910-947-4444.

Suspects facing criminal charges are considered innocent until proven guilty in a court of law.

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