The Sumter County Sherriff’s Office has arrested 22 men and women across the state of Florida during an undercover internet sex sting where detectives posed as children online.
A Sherriff’s Office spokesman said the undercover operation was similar to the popular series “To Catch A Predator” on Dateline NBC.
Investigators said suspects showed up at meeting locations they thought were with minors carrying condoms in tow. The condoms and other evidence are on exhibit today at the Sheriff’s Office headquarters. Suspects have been identified as residents of Tampa, Kissimmee, Ocala and elsewhere.
More details of the takedowns will be released by the Sumter County Sherriff’s Office later today.
While the details of specific charges are unknown as of yet, many times these undercover sex stings that involve solicitation of a minor, travelling to meet a minor for sexual purposes and the possession and/or distribution of child pornography. Child pornography can play a factor in these stings when local law enforcement use pornographic material featuring a minor as a way to entice individuals to the location of the undercover sting. Law enforcement usually establishes an online presence where communication takes place in a private or public conversation, such as a chatroom, where pictures are often exchanged and agreements for sexual encounters are arranged.
The Florida Attorney General’s Office has increased its efforts to investigate sexual solicitation of minors, making it a top priority to protect children from adult threats via the Internet. Florida ranks fourth in the country for child pornography on the Internet. Due to this high rank, the Attorney General’s Office created the Child Predator Cybercrime Unit to shield minors and explore cases involving child pornography and sexual solicitation and exploitation of minors in Florida. Florida also endorsed the Cybercrimes Against Children Act in 2007 which amplified criminal punishments for behavior such as possession of child pornography and soliciting children over the Internet.