Several arrests took place when suspects thought they were meeting teenagers for sex but were actually communicating with undercover detectives in central Florida.
Among the individuals arrested were three Walt Disney World employees, a registered nurse, and a married man from California, Fox 13 reported Tuesday.
The six-day operation targeted individuals who allegedly used the internet to prey on kids, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said.
During a press conference, Sheriff Grady Judd showed photos of the suspects and detailed the undercover operation:
Sheriff Grady Judd is briefing the media about Operation Child Protector, a six-day long undercover investigation focusing on those who prey upon children online. The Auburndale, Orlando, and Winter Haven Police Departments and the Orange County Sheriff’s Office participated in this investigation, which resulted in 17 suspects arrested for a total of 49 felonies and two misdemeanors. Click here to read the news release: https://tinyurl.com/8h5e4w3h
Posted by Polk County Sheriff's Office on Tuesday, August 3, 2021
“These are nasty, nasty, nasty people. When we go through this understand that obviously we can’t even use the words that they used. We obviously can’t show you the pictures and the video clips they sent to what they thought were 13-year-old little girls and little boys,” Judd said.
Sheriff Judd is briefing the media about Operation Child Protector, a 6 day long investigation focusing on those who prey upon children online with @Auburndalegov Chief Andy Ray & @WHPoliceDept Dir Charlie Bird. Read https://t.co/rLSq65y6DQ & watch on https://t.co/rKNE28jFQl pic.twitter.com/zketpzki7b
— Polk County Sheriff 🚔 (@PolkCoSheriff) August 3, 2021
The sheriff’s office announced the charges in a press release Tuesday along with the list of suspects:
In all, detectives arrested 17 suspects, who face a total of 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges which include: traveling to meet a minor for sex, attempted lewd battery, use of a computer to seduce a child, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and transmission of material harmful to a child; six suspects brought condoms, and nine suspects have criminal histories (with 27 total previous felonies, and 22 total previous misdemeanors). The youngest suspect arrested is 26 years old, and the two oldest suspects are 47 years old. They were all from the central Florida area, except one suspect who was here visiting from California.
“That’s the downside of social media. It’s made the predators easier to get to the children. And they are online scouring for children, so don’t think that this was their first time and don’t think that they haven’t found some child in the past to attack,” Judd concluded.