Gainesville-Ocala Online Sex Sting Results in Arrest of 22nd Suspect

A 31-year-old Ocala man was arrested earlier this month as part of an undercover child-sex sting after police allege he contacted someone he believed was a 13-year-old girl online and then traveled to meet the supposed child for sex.

The man was charged with using a computer to seduce, solicit or lure a child, traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child and using a two-way communications device to facilitate a felony, according to an Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrest report. All three are felonies.

The Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which has its headquarters at the Gainesville Police Department, recently led an undercover operation dubbed “Operation Panther” targeting adults who solicit minors for sex online. The operation ended Aug. 31, at which time 21 men had been arrested as a result of the sting.

This man was the 22nd arrest of Operation Panther.

The man allegedly made contact online with an undercover officer who was posing as a 13-year-old girl and in their conversations he was informed of and clearly acknowledged the child’s age, according to the arrest report. Police claim the man discussed sexual things he wanted to do to the girl and also “repeatedly expressed concern about how illegal this was and him getting in trouble and going to prison for a long time,” the report said.

The man is accused of later travelling on a suspended driver’s license to meet the person he believed was a child for the purpose of having a sexual encounter with her, according to the arrest report. He was arrested and taken to the Alachua County Jail.

A simple misunderstanding or just chatting with the wrong person on an Internet site mistakenly can lead to an individual falling into the guise of an undercover sex sting operation. Law enforcement officers are highly trained to spend countless hours scouring Internet chat rooms and social media sites, posing as underage children in search of adult predators. These sex cases require a high level of understanding about computers and the Internet. Fortunately, our Florida Sex Crimes Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton are experienced in handling Internet sex crimes cases. We work with computer experts in order to develop the best possible defense strategies for those accused of Internet solicitation crimes.

If you have been charged with a sex crime stemming from an Internet sting operation, it is vital that you seek criminal defense representation as soon as possible. You need to remember that you have legal rights, and these rights may have been violated during the course of the sting operation. Call us today at 866-608-5529 or contact us online for a free consultation. We can begin helping you right away, so do not delay.

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