A 37-year-old Fort Lauderdale, Florida man was arrested last week for allegedly traveling to Boynton Beach on a Kawasaki motorcycle, a bottle of liquor and some condoms in his saddlebags with the intentions of having sex with a 15-year-old boy he met online.
According to Palm Beach County prosecutors the man has been charged with possessing computer pornography, child exploitation, traveling to meet a minor to commit a sex act and the possession of a sexual performance by a minor.
Agents with the South Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force were supposedly in the midst of a separate investigation when they found a 15-year-old boy’s picture posted on a social network blog. The detectives dug into the boy’s web history and discovered sexual chats and nude photographs swapped between the teen and the accused, according to the Sun-Sentinel.
One detective took over the teen’s social networking account by posing as the boy. The detective allegedly had the teen’s permission to do so. During the chat, the man allegedly set up a meeting with the teen.
Detectives were waiting at the location in Boynton Beach and took the man into custody. The man supposedly admitted to having sexual chats with the teen during questioning. The man’s bail is set at $750,000 and he reportedly has house arrest conditions that include no access to computers or the Internet, no contact with minors and the surrender of his passport, according to court records.
If the man is convicted of the crimes he’s charged with, he could face five to 15 years for each count.
Since NBC aired the show “To Catch a Predator,” the public pressure on law enforcement created by media has significantly increased undercover sex trap stings that attempt to crack down on the crime of traveling to meet a minor. Because of this, police have amped up online sex traps to catch suspects trying to engage in sexual acts with minors by utilizing several methods to lure people via the Internet. A popular method is for police to pose as a minor in a chat room looking for sex with an adult. An increasingly popular ploy, is an undercover officer who masquerades as a parent or guardian of a minor and suggests the person teach their child how to have sex. Following initial contact, communication will likely continue over the Internet, through phone calls and even text messages until the adult arranges a meeting with the minor for sex and travels to the designated location.
If you or someone you care for has been arrested for or charged with traveling to meet a minor, it is very important to not make any statements to police. By doing so, you could limit possible defenses for your case. Additionally, investigators keep records of any emails and/or texts that pertain to the undercover trap. Officials could seize your phone and computer so as to recover any evidence that could be used against you located on hard drive. If anything negative is recovered, police could contradict any statements you made during questioning and potentially destroy your credibility in the court room, should your case go to trial.
Traveling to meet a minor is a second degree felony in the state of Florida, punishable by up to 15 years in prison along with a $10,000 fine. In addition to prison time, a person convicted of this offense will be required to register as a sex offender and could be subjected to involuntarily civil commitment. The statutory minimum for this sentence is 21 months behind bars, unless there is a lawful reason for downward departure. One of the most practiced ways to mitigate a defendant’s possible sentence is through a pre-plea downward departure (lesser sentence) hearing. This approach is taken before a defendant enters a plea as a means to test the court for leniency, so as figure out from the presiding judge how much of a lesser sentence can be granted if and when the defendant decides to plea. Basically, these hearings keep the defendant free from accepting any responsibility for having committed any wrongful act.
If you are charged with traveling to meet a minor, contact the experienced Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton immediately. We can exhaustively examine the state’s evidence and investigate all potential defenses and mitigation.
If you or someone you care about has been the subject of an undercover cyber sting in Fort Lauderdale or throughout the state of Florida, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton online 24/7 or dial our South Florida consultation office statewide and toll-free at 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).
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