Crime & Courts

Columbia man charged after Internet sex sting

AIKEN -- A Columbia man has been jailed on allegations he arranged to meet a person he believed to be a 13-year-old girl for sex in Aiken County but was arrested by Aiken County Sheriff's Office deputies instead, according to Attorney General Henry McMaster.

Mark William Harris, 30, of Grenadier Drive in Columbia, was arrested on Friday as part of an undercover Internet sting conducted by the Aiken County Sheriff's Office.

Lt. Troy Elwell, a spokesperson for the Aiken County Sheriff's Office, said sheriff's office investigators worked the case and made the arrest; however, the investigation was done as part of the Attorney General's Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, and charges will be filed by state officials.

On Thursday, Harris was accused of soliciting sex on the Internet from a girl officials say he believed was a teenage girl. In reality, he was communicating with an undercover Aiken County Sheriff's deputy, McMaster's office reported.

The suspect further arranged to meet the person he believed to be a teenage girl for sex at a predetermined location in Aiken County. Harris was arrested upon his arrival at that location the next day, according to officials.

Harris is charged with one count of criminal solicitation of a minor, a felony offense punishable by 10 years of imprisonment, and one count of attempted criminal sexual conduct with a minor, a felony offense punishable by 20 years of imprisonment.

The Lexington County Sheriff's Office, also a member of the task force, assisted with the execution of a search warrant, which resulted in the seizure of a computer and computer-related items, according to officials.

This is the 142nd arrest for the task force.

The case will be prosecuted by the Attorney General's Office.

-- Aiken Standard, McClatchy-Tribune Regional News