When we hear on the news about internet sex stings, we are often shocked to learn who these people really are. They seem “normal” and have every day type of jobs. What has been uncovered during the most recent local sting is very surprising.
Over in Volusia County, FL, a massive sex predator sting on Wednesday ended with 14 people arrested. The Volusia County Sheriff’s Office partnered with about a dozen law enforcement agencies on the cybersting operation. This latest one was called “Operation Spring Cleaning.” This is the 3rd operation that has been conducted since 2011 in the area. 38 arrests have been made since then. Just like in the past, the undercover investigators went online, posing as children or parents offering their children up to predators. The Sheriff’s Department used a house in DeBary rigged with cameras and the authorities captured the men who showed up to meet with the potential minor.
This five day operation with undercover law enforcement posing as children chatting in cyberspace, led to some shocking results. Among those arrested were a former law enforcement officer from Jacksonville. He brought a bottle of liquor, a gun, a computer containing child pornography, a digital camera and an injectable treatment for erectile dysfunction with him. Pretty damning evidence.
Another defendant works at Disney World and is only 23 years old. I guess after hearing about all these stings over the years, very little should surprise us. These are people we see day in, day out, at our jobs or out in public. They could be our neighbors or even close friends. The defendants ranged in age from 18 to 51, so it turned out to be a pretty wide net. Some of them traveled over 100 miles for potential sex with a minor.
These men will need a strong defense. Charges related to downloading or sharing child pornography or talking to a minor online in a sexual manner or attempting to meet up with a minor to have sex with them, come with harsh penalties. The attorney will have to challenge how the illicit images were found on the computer and challenge why someone would travel to meet with a minor.
It can still be a winnable fight, but if convicted they might be required to register as a sex offender for life.