CANFIELD, Ohio (WKBN) – U.S. Marshals said they arrested a South Carolina sex offender who was operating a kiddie ride at the Canfield Fair on Thursday afternoon.
The saying “meet me by the Rock” is a simple way to find your friends at the Canfield Fair. But police had a mission on Thursday that one deputy said was like finding a needle in a haystack.
It was the search for 30-year-old Brandon Walsh, wanted in South Carolina on a criminal solicitation of a minor charge.
Investigators say Walsh messaged a 13-year-old on Facebook, asking for nude pictures of the child and to meet for sex.
The sheriff in Richland County, South Carolina said Walsh was using fake profiles on Facebook to message teen girls between the ages of 13 and 16 years old. Police said if the victims refused to send him more nude photos, Walsh would threaten to post the ones of them he already had.
Investigators said this has been going on from the end of 2016 through August 2017 at his South Carolina home.
Major Bill Cappabianca was at the Mahoning County Sheriff’s Office display under the Grandstand when U.S. Marshals told him the wanted man was close by.
“With the environment here at the Canfield Fair, the amount of children that come here and the charges that he was facing in South Carolina, that’s somebody we want to find and put in cuffs as quick as we can,” he said.
The fair is a big place, though. Marshals, sheriff’s deputies, the Ohio State Highway Patrol, and Canfield City and Fair police had a picture of Walsh — but they still had to find him.
“We got a game plan together quickly. We were able to put some four-wheelers and golf carts into parking lots to look for his vehicle. We were able to locate it within a half hour, surprisingly, at the Canfield Fair,” Cappabianca said.
Officers continued to walk the fair and you probably didn’t notice much until they made their way to the kids’ rides.
“It was within the hour that a fairground police officer actually found him working one of the rides,” Cappabianca said. “We converged on him and were able to make the arrest.”
Law enforcement said Walsh denied having a cell phone but they didn’t believe him and kept pressing.
“We were able to get a confession out of him that he had the cell phone and that he has discarded it inside a port-a-john,” Cappabianca said.
Officers fished it out and police will check it once they get a search warrant. They’re also getting warrants to search his car and a laptop they see inside it.
Walsh said he just came to the Mahoning Valley to work the fair but police want to know if he was doing anything illegal while he was in Canfield.
The Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation is looking into whether Walsh had child pornography on him while he was at the fair.
“When other agencies, especially far away outside the state or outside of the country, need assistance in bringing fugitives — especially like this, people who prey on children — bringing them to justice, we can move as swift as possible and as quickly as possible to bring them into custody to answer for their charges,” said Anne Murphy, U.S. Marshals Service spokeswoman.
Attendance at the fair on Thursday was 27,788 and police found this one man within an hour.
The Marshals said that’s exactly why this Violent Fugitive Task Force was set up in 2003.
Walsh is being held in Mahoning County Jail until he can be sent back to South Carolina. He will be facing additional charges once he’s back in his home state.