A week long undercover sex sting operation has resulted in the arrest of 79 people, including a high school girls’ basketball coach and a pastor.
The sting was conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office and called “Operation Takedown,” and launched to coincide with the past weekend’s WrestleMania 37 that was held at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa.
The HCSO said that they believed the large even would yield a high number of people looking to take advantage of those in the Tampa community through human trafficking.
Detectives created online profiles as part of the undercover operation to chat with men looking to engage in sex acts for money. They also had female detectives pose as prostitutes, according to reports.
A 39-year-old pastor was arrested in the undercover operation. The Sheriff’s Office said that the man allegedly offered an undercover detective $25 for a sexual act after he took his children to their daycare. He is accused of reaching the deal with the undercover detective posing as a prostitute while his two kids were in the car with him.
Another man, a 39-year-old assistant girls’ basketball coach, was arrested after allegedly answering an ad posted by the undercover officers.
Both of the men are facing misdemeanor charges of soliciting another to commit prostitution. The pastor is facing two additional misdemeanor counts of contributing to the delinquency of a minor due to the fact that his children were in the car with him when the alleged misconduct took place.
The operation also resulted in two men being arrested on human trafficking charges. They were both arrested after allegedly responding to an escort ad to have sex with a 17-year-old girl.
Another man, a 41-year-old registered sex offender, was arrested after he allegedly texted what he thought was a 14-year-old girl. He is facing charges of transmitting harmful material to a minor and traveling to meet a minor after using a computer to solicit illegal acts, as well as other charges, according to the HCSO.
Many people make the mistake of cruising the Internet for escorts and wind up involved in an undercover prostitution sting. The presence of web-based sex crimes has only increased police efforts to catch and prosecute those believed to be sexual predators. Police often use aggressive tactics to entrap innocent individuals with no criminal history into various situations that lead to their arrest. Our Florida Internet Sting Operation Lawyers at Whittel & Melton know how police operate in these undercover stings, and we can put our knowledge to work for your benefit. If you or someone you love has been accused of responding to an ad posted by an undercover detective, then let us help you fight these charges. We are familiar with how police and undercover agents use social media, the Internet, as well as text messages and online chats to illegally trap those that have never had any run-ins with the law before.
If you are arrested in an undercover Internet sting operation by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office or any other agency, you can possibly face immediate consequences that can negatively impact your life. Your name and picture could appear online and show that you were arrested for solicitation or any other related charge. A public disclosure like this can tarnish your reputation in the community with friends and family as well as damage your job status.
When police officers use undercover agents to lure unsuspecting individuals into soliciting sex acts, this opens the door to the very real possibility of entrapment or other illegal tactics made by law enforcement. Our Florida Internet Sting Operation Lawyers at Whittel & Melton can review all of the evidence against you and identify any unlawful tactics used by police right away. Depending on the facts of your case, we may be able to use this as leverage to persuade the prosecution for a dismissal of the charges or a reduction of the charges against you. Every case is different, and while we can make no guarantees on the outcome of your case, we can promise to passionately fight for your reputation and liberty. We understand how overreaching police officers work, and we have developed our own team of experienced investigators and computer forensic experts who can help us build the best defense strategy tailored to your case.
We are available 24/7 to help you, so we urge you to call us today at 813-221-3200 or contact us online for a free consultation. We will be honest with you about what we think your best options are and will guide you accordingly.