Alachua County Computer Child Sex Sting Yields 21 Arrests
Whittel & Melton, LLC 352-264-7800 – Florida Sex Crimes Attorneys
A joint undercover investigation conducted by the Gainesville Police Department and the Alachua County Sheriff’s Office dubbed the name Operation Tail Feather resulted in the arrests of 21 men charged with soliciting minors online.
According to the Sheriff’s spokesman, undercover deputies used Craigslist, Plenty of Fish and other online sites to pose as minors wishing to participate in various sexual acts, or they answered ads posted by men seeking young sex partners.
The 21 suspects range in age from 19 to 65 and those arrested include a second-grade teacher, a physician’s assistant at the University of Florida and a man who mentors children at local churches.
Investigators claim that some suspects followed up on the telephone to complete arrangements after making initial contact via the Internet.
The men allegedly met undercover detectives in northwest Gainesville where some were immediately arrested and others were taken to a home where they were told a sexual encounter would take place, and then arrested at the home.
One of the men arrested is a former first-year second-grade teacher. An Alachua County Public Schools spokeswoman confirmed the man was a probationary teacher fired from his position Monday.
A University of Florida spokeswoman said that the 45-year-old physician’s assistant has been placed on administrative leave with pay and has been a licensed physician’s assistant in Florida since 2001 and had been working in the UF anesthesiology department. The charges against the man do not involve any patients or patient areas at UF.
One man, who told undercover officials that he works around children at churches, allegedly showed up to a meeting location where he believed he would have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Officials claim the man lead them on a foot chase when he realized he would be arrested.
According to police reports, some of the answers to their undercover ads revealed interest in bestiality and one man showed up with his dog. Some men apparently showed up with used condoms, sex toys and bondage paraphernalia.
Operation Tail Feather began Feb. 1 and some of the fictional scenarios created online included participating in a Wiccan ceremony with an 11-year-old girl and teaching a 10-year-old girl about sex.
Undercover online child sex stings have become increasingly common since computers and cell phones have become a gateway for children to make contact with friends and virtually anyone via Internet-related devices. Local and national law enforcement agencies are constantly setting up undercover operations scouring the Internet for alleged predators looking to make illegal contact with minors. In fact, even if the suspect has no information regarding the child’s age, he or she can still be prosecuted under Florida laws against internet solicitation of a minor.
Police use a variety of online media sources to carry out their computer sting operations to target individuals using computers to connect with minors for sexual purposes. Social media sites like Facebook, Twitter and Craigslist are popularly used by undercover detectives who pose as children in order to lure individuals into hooking up with minors. Law enforcement agencies have the ability to easily track down those suspected of using a computer to solicit minors under the age of 18. Because of this, it is essential to establish a good defense as soon as possible. A conviction for the online solicitation of a minor generally means mandatory prison time and each solicitation made can be charged as a third-degree felony punishable by up to five years in prison.
The Florida Computer Sex Sting Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton can help you understand your legal rights pertaining to Florida and federal sex crimes. We can begin producing a strong legal defense as soon as you contact us. As a felony with a mandatory prison terms attached, a solicitation of a minor conviction could have lasting impacts on your future. Often, these charges are intensified when a person is accused of traveling to meet with a minor for sexual purposes. If a charge for traveling to meet with a minor is involved, you could face a second-degree felony charge with potential consequences of 15 years behind bars.
If you have been arrested in an undercover sex trap involving minors anywhere in the state of Florida, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Attorneys at Whittel & Melton online or call our Gainesville office at 352-264-7800 or dial us statewide and toll-free at 866-608-5529.