Columbia man charged in Internet sex sting

A 61-year-old Columbia man faces sex crime charges after being snared in an ongoing statewide sting aimed at catching adults using the Internet to seek sex with children.

Joe H. Culler Jr., 61, of 2426 Wilmot Avenue, was arrested on three counts of criminal solicitation of a minor by Greenville city police. His address is in the upscale Shandon neighborhood and less than two blocks from Hand Middle School.

Culler could not be reached for comment.

“Arrest warrants allege that beginning on Jan. 26, 2009, Culler solicited sex on the Internet from an individual he believed to be a 13-year-old girl.

“In reality he was communicating with an undercover Greenville police officer,” said a statement from the S.C. Attorney General’s office, which coordinates the ongoing statewide sting operation.

Each count is a felony offense punishable by up to 10 years in prison. Culler was also charged with two counts of disseminating obscene material to a minor. That also carries a maximum 10 years in prison sentence.

Police who searched Culler’s residence seized a computer and a web cam.

The Richland County Sheriff’s Department and the Columbia police department assisted in the search. About 50 departments statewide participate in the sting operation.

This is the 174th arrest of an alleged Internet predator caught by Attorney General Henry McMaster’s Internet predator task force.

Culler was assigned a $50,000 bond.