Polk County, Florida’s latest child predator investigation resulted in the arrest of six individuals from the greater Tampa/Orlando area as well as 16 others charged with traveling across Florida as well as other states, with the hopes of allegedly having sex with children as young as 9. The men supposedly arranged meetings for sex after partaking in online communications with undercover detectives from Hendry, Hernando, Lake, Osceola, Polk counties and Plant City and Orlando police departments who posed as children or their guardians.
The weeklong sting started on April 18, 2011 and ended on Mother’s Day, April 24, 2011. Operation House Call, the name of the latest undercover investigation, used advertisements from custodial guardians on a quest to find sexual direction from adult males for their young girls. The ads were posted on Craigslist, Backpage, MyYearbook and OKCupid websites.
The Polk County State Attorney’s Office, the state Attorney General’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement also assisted with the undercover child predator take down.
Of the Orlando men arrested, one is a Winter Park consultant and former News Corporation media executive, another the former CEO of the Sky Latin America pay-TV network, an Orlando defense contractor, two University of Central Florida students, an Orlando-area Orangewood Christian School student and an Ocoee delivery man. All of the men allegedly showed up to have sex with girls ranging in age from 11-13.
The men supposedly brought various assorted items for the girls including stuffed animals, condoms and even a leather whip and facial mask.
The 18-year-old student at Orangewood Christian School was charged with travel to entice to seduce a child to have sex, use 2-way communication device to facilitate a felony, use of a computer to seduce or solicit a child for sex, and attempted lewd and lascivious behavior on a child under 16. His bail was set at $56,000 and he was released April 24.
The Winter Park consultant was arrested April 27 and charged with travelling to entice or attempt to seduce a child for sex and use of a computer service to seduce or solicit a child for sex. He was released April 30 on a bond of $75,000.
A man that traveled the furthest, all the way from Germantown, Maryland, was arrested May 2 on five felony charges after allegedly arriving in Polk County and organizing a meeting for sex between him and what he thought would be a 10-year-old stepdaughter. He has since been released on $101,000 bail. Three others were arrested from Virginia, Texas and Missouri.
In undercover investigations like these, there are many elements that prosecutors must prove accurate, one of them being the identity of the defendant on the other end of the chat. This is often done through circumstantial evidence, such as the undercover officer getting the defendant to trade pictures with them and matching their image to the person that shows up to the meeting with the photograph sent from the defendant’s email account to the officer’s account.
Email and Internet Protocol (IP) addresses can and most likely will always be relied upon during trial for any type of online computer sex sting operation.
In many internet sex crimes cases, the police will do a further investigation of the defendant’s computer to hunt for additional emails, child pornography or any other type of evidence to use against the accused. If these searches are done illegally, no further evidence can substantiate the case or sustain added charges.
If you have been arrested in Florida for charges relating to any type of undercover sex sting operation, contact the Florida Sex Crimes Defense Lawyers online or call 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).
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