JACKSON COUNTY — Six men were arrested this week at a Carbondale hotel in a two-day anti-human trafficking operation similar to the “Catch a Predator” show.

According to Jackson County Court records, 29-year-old Justin Phoenix, of Scott Air Force Base; 29-year-old Marlin Kellum, of Marion; 32-year-old Robert Wilson of Carbondale; 46-year-old Charles Kemp of Frankfort; 35-year-old Scott Strudwick, of Murphysboro; and 23-year-old Kyler McGhee, of Omaha, Nebraska were all arrested Thursday.

All six men were charged with Class 3 felony traveling to meet a minor and at least one Class 4 felony charge of indecent solicitation of a child over the internet.

Kellum is additionally charged with misdemeanor solicitation of a minor, as were Kemp, McGhee, Phoenix and Strudwick. Strudwick is also facing a Class 3 felony charge for the possession of methamphetamine. Judge Michael Fiello on Friday found the charges were detainable offenses and ordered all six defendants to remain in the Jackson County Jail pending trial.

Jackson County State’s Attorney Joseph Cervantez points out that human trafficking can happen anywhere – even here – which means you can also be caught anywhere. He says the Highway 13 corridor leading into Carbondale is an important factor in this type of activity.

According to Cervantez, truancy is a major factor in human trafficking as it is in most crimes. He notes the lack of skills often leads to criminal activity to make money, which can include drugs, theft, guns, and sex. Statistics show, he says, that the lack of a high school diploma dramatically increases a person’s likelihood to be involved in criminal activity.

The six men reportedly believed they were contacting a minor over various social media platforms. Cervantez says the incidents were audio and video recorded and an exchange was made of some type in each case.

The investigation was conducted by the Human Trafficking Enforcement Bureau of the

Illinois State Police Division of Criminal Investigation.