Eighteen people face charges after their arrests in a Polk County child-sex sting, including men who told detectives they worked at Disney World, SeaWorld and a Christian school, according to the Sheriff’s Office said.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a news conference Tuesday that the men, who range in age from 19 to 60, are facing multiple charges after being caught in Operation April’s Fools, which ran from March 29 to April 4 in Lakeland.
Six suspects were from Polk County; others came from Orange, Lake and Volusia counties. One was visiting from Alaska, according to deputies.
During the operation, undercover detectives posted fake ads and profiles online, posing as children or child guardians. Numerous men allegedly responded to the ads and chatted online via text, email and phone with the undercover detectives, according to reports.
Detectives claim the men solicited sex acts from people they thought were children as young as 13 years old. Two suspects thought they were chatting with the father of a 10-year-old girl, according to arrest reports.
Deputies said that 9 suspects brought condoms and some brought candy once they showed up to the arranged meeting spot.
The charges the men face range from attempted lewd battery, use of a computer to seduce a child, transmission of harmful material to a minor, use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony, and traveling to meet a minor.
Multiple law enforcement agencies, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Orlando Police and Lakeland Police, participated in the sting.
Undercover child sex stings are nothing new in Florida. In fact, these are conducted on a regular basis and most counties work together to try and “take down” anyone suspected of trying to solicit sex from a minor. These types of stings will continue to occur as long as police continue to “catch” alleged offenders. The truth of the matter is that police will stop at nothing to make arrests from these undercover operations, including using illegal tactics.
If you have been arrested in an undercover child sex sting in Florida, you may have been the victim of entrapment. Police may have succeeded in convincing you to engage in a way you otherwise would not have, and that is against the law.
If you have been charged with a sex crime, contact a Florida Sex Crimes Defense Lawyer at Whittel & Melton immediately. If you think you have been the victim of entrapment, you will need our help to present the best possible defense. We can begin helping you right away – call us today at 866-608-5529.
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