The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 12 men in an undercover sting operation dubbed “Operation Intercept III,” targeting adults who use the Internet to solicit sex from children.
The men, ranging in age from 20 to 50, arrived at a decoy house in Sarasota County allegedly intending to have sex with a child, according to detectives. Instead, they were met by undercover officers.
According to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office, the men allegedly used phone applications, social media sites or Internet advertisements to contact undercover agents posing as minors or guardians of children.
Between Thursday and Saturday, agents claim that the men all engaged in sexually explicit conversations with what they believed were minors or parents of minors.
Most of the men charged in the sting believed they were talking to 14-year-old females. One case involved an agent posing as a 13-year-old girl, and another involved an agent posing as a 14-year-old boy.
One of the men arrested, a 33-year-old Tampa security officer, apparently believed he was talking to the mother of a 12-year-old girl. He allegedly started chatting with the mother on April 17 on OKCupid and then began texting. The man allegedly talked about taking the daughter’s virginity, according to reports.
Another man, 44, allegedly agreed to impregnate a 14-year-old girl, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
All of the men are charged with use of a computer to solicit a child to commit a sex act, travelling to solicit a child to commit sex and attempted lewd and lascivious battery.
Many of those arrested face additional charges related to sending nude photos or drugs.
The sheriff’s offices in Manatee and Sarasota counties have completed six stings, including this operation, in which more than 170 people have been arrested.
This is the most recent sting and the only one that has yielded less than 25 arrests.
Additional investigations related to this operation are ongoing.
Internet solicitation charges involving a minor are typically prosecuted quite aggressively. If you are facing this charge or a similar sex offense, you could be forced to deal with the serious social stigma attached to sex crimes against children as well as the very real possibility of spending years behind bars if convicted.
After the airing of the “To Catch a Predator” series, most people are familiar with how police conduct undercover Internet sex crimes investigations involving minors. However, when individuals meet online, this provides law enforcement with the opportunity to use entrapment to make their case. Entrapment brings up many constitutional rights issues, which is why the facts of your case must be thoroughly scrutinized to make sure no information was obtained illegally. Depending on the circumstances, if entrapment was used in your case, any evidence against you can be thrown out.
If you were busted in an undercover child sex sting operation, a Sarasota County Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton can help you determine the best criminal defense strategies for your charges. As current criminal trial attorneys and former criminal prosecutors, we know how the State will likely handle your case and the tactics they will use. Our experience working both sides allows us to anticipate the prosecution’s next move and provide you with a powerful defense. To arrange a free confidential consultation to discuss how we can help you, please call us today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online.