Articles Posted in Undercover Police Sting

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Undercover deputies arrested 15 men during an operation that sought out suspects who tried to solicit minors online, according to the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office report.

The sting, called “Operation Wayfarer,” lasted five days. During the operation, Pinellas investigators posed as minors online on different websites, chatrooms and social media. They looked to establish online relationships with men who were looking to meet up with minors for the purposes of sexual activity.

Pinellas detectives allege that the suspects explicitly sought out minors for sex in their online communications.

The operation ended with 15 arrests. The suspects range in age from 20 to 47 years old and they were arrested on various charges like traveling to meet a minor and online solicitation of a minor.

If you have been charged, accused of or are under investigation for any type of Internet sex crime, it is vital to the outcome of your case to retain a criminal defense lawyer who is well-versed in the technical elements of your case. Sex crimes charges, especially ones involving minors, are not taken lightly by police or prosecutors. You must protect yourself and get the legal help you need right away.

At Whittel & Melton, our Pinellas County Criminal Defense Lawyers are comprised of former prosecutors who understand Internet sex crimes defense cases. We are more than familiar with how police set up online sting operations to catch alleged sexual predators in chat rooms, dating sites and other Internet sites. We also know that these aggressive police tactics can often infringe upon the constitutional rights of the accused. That is why we analyze every aspect of sex crimes cases, including the arrest and all evidence, to expose any holes or weaknesses in the prosecution’s case.

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Two men pleaded guilty Thursday to importing more than 24 pounds of the main ingredient in the street drug flakka from China to Broward County.

Federal authorities arrested a 25-year-old Orlando man and a 21-year-old Clermont man in June after they allegedly attempted to pick up packages from a shipping and mailbox store in Hollywood.

Homeland Security Investigations agents claim the packages contained the key ingredient for making the synthetic stimulant, which often causes hallucinations and psychosis.

The packages were apparently addressed to fake names and were intercepted while being shipped to commercial mailboxes in Weston and Hollywood, according to authorities.

The men apparently ordered large amounts of the drug to be shipped from labs in China and the conspiracy occurred from January to early June, according to the plea agreement.

According to reports, the men paid cash for mailbox services and used fake identities when they picked up the shipments.

At a federal court hearing in West Palm Beach, both men pleaded guilty to one count of conspiring to import the drug ingredient.

The charge carries a maximum punishment of 20 years in federal prison and a $1 million fine.

The drug has been linked to several deaths in South Florida as well as many incidents of bizarre behavior.

Federal law makes it a crime to traffic drugs. Drug trafficking charges involves bringing an illegal substance from another place within the United States to another. Special consequences apply to the importation of drugs-bringing drugs from outside the United States into the country.

The penalties for violating federal drug importation laws depends on several factors- the drug involved, the quantities seized, whether use of the drug caused serious bodily injury or death and whether the person convicted has any previous drug-related convictions. Regardless of the circumstances, all the penalties are quite severe. A first conviction for a just a small quantity of a controlled substance, where no injury or death results, carries a minimum of 10 years in prison and a hefty fine.

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A Central Florida synthetic drug ring that was allegedly operating out of a chain of smoke shops called Pipe Dreams was busted following a year long investigation.

Five people were charged, including the two primary dealers, a 74-year-old co-owner of the shop and his 39-year-old wife and other co-owner.  

The man was arrested Thursday. His wife has not yet been arrested.

8042456462_8b3ce03115_zHe was charged with racketeering, sale/delivery of a controlled substance, manufacture/delivery of drug paraphernalia, conspiracy to sell/deliver controlled substance, and conspiracy to manufacture/deliver drug paraphernalia.

She will face the same charges once she is arrested, according to officials.

The investigation into the smoke shops in Seminole, Lake, Orange and Volusia counties began last August after officials received complaints that they sold synthetic narcotics.

Agents conducted a series of undercover operations and made controlled purchases in order to identify the persons involved with the drug deals, according to law enforcement.

The City County Investigative Bureau and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement searched five Pipe Dreams locations in December and allegedly seized liquid tetrahydrocannabinol, also known as THC and several million dollars worth of drug paraphernalia.

In raids like this, it is important to identify whether the search was done in a constitutional manner. If not, any evidence obtained in the search may be suppressed in court. Likewise, it should be determined what seized products are actually illegal. If arrested for possession or sale of synthetic drugs, it is important to have an experienced criminal defense and drug crimes lawyer on your side to make sure your rights are protected. At Whittel & Melton, our Seminole County Drug Crimes Defense Lawyers work around the clock to make sure your rights and freedom are protected.

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A Pasco County law enforcement officer was arrested Tuesday night after authorities claim he showed up to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex in Davie.

The 22-year-old Pasco County Sheriff’s deputy is facing a federal charge of luring or enticing a minor into sexual activity.

In early June, deputies believe the man and the teen started exchanging very graphic messages through an online service.

A deputy apparently took control of the teen’s phone in mid-July and began communicating with the man. The deputy pretended he was the boy.

Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco immediately fired the man, who was still a probationary employee because he had worked there for only about nine months.

According to investigators, the man had extremely explicit online conversations about sex with the teen.

In the next few days, the undercover deputy wrote that he replied to the man’s messages and told him he was a 15-year-old virgin.

The man allegedly asked the “teen” to meet him for sex and asked if the minor would be able to stay overnight at a hotel, according to court records.

The man arranged to meet the 15-year-old at 8 p.m. Tuesday night at Pine Ridge Plaza on State Road 84, according to authorities.

8598246170_a96656631a_z (2)Davie police arrested the man when he showed up at the plaza in a black Ford F-150 truck and sent a message that he had arrived. Police searched the vehicle and apparently found an iPhone with some of the messages the two had exchanged.

The man allegedly told police that he messed up and knew he the boy was 15.

He is scheduled to be in court Friday for a bond hearing.

The investigation was conducted by Davie police detectives who work with the FBI’s Child Exploitation Task Force.

Local and federal law enforcement agencies routinely conduct undercover sting operations in which they have an officer pose as a minor in online chat rooms, social networking sites, and as this case shows, even on the other end of a text message conversation. When an adult arranges to meet with the undercover officer who they think is a minor, law enforcement agents will immediately arrest them.

Whatever your particular case may entail, the most important thing to know is that the charges you face are very serious. You are facing life-changing penalties if convicted, including significant fines, prison time for any attempt to actually meet a minor, registration as a sex offender and life-long challenges on your personal and financial well-being.

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In a month and a half-long operation called “Summer Heat,” 42 sex offenders who violated registration laws were arrested.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement released this statement: “Operation Summer Heat should send a strong message to all sex offenders that Florida law enforcement is serious about registration. We are just beginning our work. If you are a sex offender and you violate registration laws, we are looking for you.”

The operation resulted in the arrest of 4 sex offenders from Central Florida including Seminole, Orange and Volusia counties. The FDLE’s Enforcement and Investigative Support Unit coordinated the operation along with the U.S. Marshals Service and local law enforcement agencies.

The EIS was created in 2014 to assist local and federal agencies to locate sex offenders who have violated registration laws, many of whom cross jurisdictional lines. The offenders who intentionally avoid registration requirements were arrested.

The arrests were made from warrants as a result of investigations conducted by local sheriffs or police departments.

Florida sex offender registration requires you to give all of your information to the authorities regarding where you live, work or attend school. This information that is required to be given can include personal information, fingerprints, identifying physical information like tattoos and noticeable scars and birthmarks and even information about the crimes for which you were convicted. This information made public and available to everyone in the community. Anyone can get online and view this information, including employers, housing and rental agencies, schools, neighborhood associations and neighbors, as well as police.

Failing to register can result in severe criminal penalties. Our Central Florida Criminal Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton represent those who have been charged with failure to register or falsifying their registration.

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An undercover cyber crime prostitution and child-sex sting conducted jointly by the Lake and Polk county sheriff’s offices netted 101 arrests Tuesday.

Of those arrested was an Orlando community activist who drove to a Clermont-area house intending to meet what he believed was a 12-year-old girl he had been chatting with online for sex, according to authorities. The man apparently drove to the house in a vehicle with a specialty “Invest in Children” license plate and was arrested after knocking on the door of the decoy house.

The two-week sting, which started on May 18, resulted in 79 people being arrested in the prostitution operation and 22 in the child-sex sting, according to officials.

The operation, dubbed “L & P” for “Lake” and “Polk,” used chat rooms and online forums to identify people seeking illicit sex. The first phase of the operation targeted people looking to have sex with minors from 10 to 14. The second phase of the operation targeted prostitution, and most suspects were arrested for attempting to engage in a sex act for cash. A few were busted for drug possession and one driver faces charges for taking a person to the house knowing prostitution was involved, according to reports.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office is notorious for conducting sex sting operations around the county that are intended to target adults seeking underage individuals online to engage in sexual activities. Undercover officers usually claim that those arrested in these sting operations responded to ads that implied a minor was available for sex.

Regardless of the fact that many sex sting cases wind up getting dismissed, and many convictions are overturned due to entrapment, once arrested, the damage is already done. The media coverage sought by law enforcement in regards to these sting operations are ruthless to the point that the accused may find a TV news camera aimed at his face while being guided into the back seat of a patrol car. These accusations alone can negatively impact a person’s employment status, reputation, family and personal life.

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According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, police arrested an Ocala man Friday morning on 20 counts of possession of child pornography.

The 51-year-old man turned himself in at the Marion County Jail and was booked in at 10:45 a.m., according to the Sheriff’s Office.

He declined to speak with detectives.

4754231502_940e0fe7f1_zThe police began investigating the case after a tip from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children and the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force.

Police believe the man possessed child pornography and had transmitted it through his email for several years, according to a Sheriff’s Office news release.

On Tuesday, authorities executed a search warrant at the man’s home where they seized several computers and cellphones containing “hundreds of child pornography images.”

The man was being held at the Marion County Jail on Friday in lieu of $200,000 bond.

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A Clay County man plead guilty to receiving child pornography over the Internet Tuesday.

Officials claim that through investigations, agents with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement found a host computer that held images of child porn using a peer-to-peer file sharing program. The agent downloaded files from the host computer, and linked the subscriber information back to the 45-year-old man.

Officer’s obtained a search warrant for the man’s home and allegedly seized several computers and other electronic media that were later found to contain at least 18 images of child pornography and at least 20 videos depicting minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct.

The man apparently acknowledged during an interview with police that he had been receiving child porn for about two years.

6853270358_c89271d21d_mThe man faces a mandatory minimum of five years and up to 20 years in federal prison and a potential life term of supervision.

Child pornography is any photograph, film, video or computer generated image that displays a minor in a sexual situation. Both the federal government and the state have criminalized the production, distribution and possession of any form of child pornography. Due to the nature of these crimes, the media and public express much disdain when it comes to these offenses. Prosecutors, judges and juries also find these crimes quite heinous, and the consequences of a conviction can result in severe penalties.  In fact, it is common to be slapped with a five year mandatory minimum sentence behind bars for receiving or possessing even just one child pornography image. However, most investigations into child porn uncover numerous images, which can enhance a sentencing guideline of more than ten years in prison.

State or federal authorities can prosecute cases involving child pornography, however, the majority of cases involving child porn in recent years have been prosecuted in federal courts, which usually impose sentencing guidelines that are much harsher than state courts. Due to the seriousness of these crimes, it is vital to retain a criminal defense lawyer immediately so that your rights can be protected and a solid defense can be established.

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Federal authorities arrested a 67-year-old Manatee County man they allege used Craigslist to try to set arrange a sexual encounter with a 10-year-old girl.

According to the Department of Justice, an FBI special agent found an advertisement in the “all personals” section of Craigslist referring to a single white male seeking a “family dynamic.”

Authorities claim that last week, the accused engaged in email communications with the undercover agent posing as the father of a 10-year-old girl and 13-year-old boy. During the online communications, the man allegedly told the undercover agent that he wanted to engage in sexual conduct with the minors.

6853270358_c89271d21d_mAccording to authorities, the man traveled to Altamonte Springs on Thursday, where he had arranged to meet the father of the minors for the purpose of engaging in illicit sexual conduct. He was taken into custody upon his arrival at the location.

The Justice Department claims the man admitted to going to Altamonte Springs to explore the possibility of having sex with a 10-year-old girl. Investigators claim the man also shared that he has been involved in a bondage, dominance, sado masochistic lifestyle for about 10 years.

He is charged with attempting to persuade, induce, and entice a minor to engage in illicit sexual conduct. He faces 10 years to life in prison.

This case was brought as part of Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in May 2006 by the Department of Justice to put an end to the growing epidemic of child sexual exploitation and abuse. The case will be prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Ilianys Rivera Miranda.

Sexual offenses, especially those involving minors, tend to elicit much public outrage and condemnation than any other type of crime. Those that are accused of these crimes are made out to appear like they lead double lives and and should be stripped of their basic constitutional freedoms. Due to the intense stigma attached to sex crimes, it is not uncommon for people to falsely accuse a family member, neighbor, teacher or anyone else they do not like of committing a sexually motivated crime. Even worse, prosecutors have been known to rely on false testimony and statements in order to obtain a conviction. Even if the allegations are eventually proved false, the results can still be devastating for the accused.

When it comes to sex crimes, law enforcement and prosecutors will try and do everything in their power to persuade you to confess to the crime in question. Understand that pleading guilty can result in a lengthy prison sentence as well as lifetime registration as a sexual offender. These cases require a sex crimes defense lawyer who can look for holes in the prosecution’s case and fight aggressively for you.

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A ring of 74 suspected drug dealers allegedly infiltrating Lake County with cocaine, heroin and prescription pills have been charged with various drug-related charges.

These arrests come after a four-month undercover investigation where the Lake County Sheriff’s Office claims the members of the drug ring were caught red handed. The charges resulted from the undercover operation dubbed “Close to Home,” which was started due to numerous citizen complaints. Investigators claim they seized two pounds of heroin, seven ounces of cocaine and about 300 prescription pills, totaling nearly $140,000 in street value.

The Sheriff’s Office announced that those involved in this alleged drug ring never strayed too far from home. They allegedly made transactions where families are shopping with their children.

5829666604_516663f8ee_mSo far, arrest warrants have been served on 67 suspects. The investigation was conducted by the Lake County Sheriff’s office along with Clermont, Mount Dora and Leesburg police departments, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office and the Orlando division of the U.S. Marshal’s Office. The state Department of Children and Families is also involved. Children found in the homes that were searched have been placed with other family members.

Investigators also seized 23 vehicles, including two BMWs and two Suzuki motorcycles, along with 20 guns and about $33,000 in cash. According to officials, the vehicles will be sold or used by the participating agencies.

A majority of the suspects, ranging in age from 18 to 60, are from south Lake, according to the Sheriff’s Office.

Police believe the suspected ring leader is a 27-year-old man from Clermont who has a history of drug and criminal charges.

In most large-scale drug trafficking investigations, it is quite common for police to conduct multiple undercover drug transactions with the same suspect, or in this case suspects, before making an arrest. This is just one tactic that allows police to gain new evidence as well as new suspects as they continue to perform undercover transactions. This also gives law enforcement and the State’s Attorney’s Office a powerful edge in negotiating strategies as they can prosecute suspects for numerous different criminal counts.

Those who are facing any type of drug charges must take these matters very seriously. A conviction will likely result in jail time, not to mention a criminal record, which could limit one’s chances of obtaining employment or qualifying for a loan.

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