Three Charged in Joint Local, State, and Federal Sting Operation Targeting Child Sex Trafficking

Covington Police Chief Michael Ferrell today announced that three individuals had been charged in the 22nd Judicial District Court in Covington 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).

On April 11, 2024, members of CPD and the Louisiana Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force arrested three defendants following 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.”

As a result of the operation, the following individuals were booked into the St. Tammany Parish Correctional Center on the following charges:

  • Wendell Swaithes Jr. (W/M age 74) of Mandeville is charged with one count of Computer-Aided Solicitation of a Minor and one count of Indecent Behavior with Juveniles.
  • Karam Abdalbaqui (W/M age 25) of Gretna is charged with one count of Computer-Aided Solicitation of a Minor and one count of Indecent Behavior with Juveniles.
  • Randolph Burge (W/M age 45) of Picayune, MS, is 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.

The investigation was led by the Louisiana Attorney General’s Cyber Crime Unit, hosted by CPD’s Criminal Investigations Division, and assisted by HSI New Orleans Field Office, the USSS New Orleans Field Office, CPD’s Special Response Team, the Mandeville Police Department, and the Washington Parish Sheriff’s Office.

In addition to targeted operations, members of our community play a vital role in identifying suspects involved in criminal or suspicious activity. CPD’s online reporting system is available at https://www.covla.com/tips