Florida sheriff arrests 13 men in online child predator operation

WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WSVN) — Deputies in central Florida have arrested 13 men in an undercover child predator operation.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office said detectives posed as underage girls and boys on several social media and dating websites as part of “Operation Cyber Guardian Fall Haul.”

Sheriff Grady Judd said the suspects believed they were communicating with children between the ages of 13 and 14 years old.

“The things that these predators say to children they believe are 13 and 14 are vile and disgusting,” Judd said. “Even seasoned, trained detectives are repulsed. The bottom line is that these predators need to be locked up and kept away from children.”

The men showed up to a location to solicit sexual acts, with many of them bringing condoms and lubricant. They were instead greeted by detectives and arrested.

One of the suspects told authorities he knew he was HIV positive and solicited unprotected sex from a boy he thought was 14.

“He’s got a disease and clearly wanted to engage in sex in a method that would promote this disease to the child,” Judd said. “If this doesn’t shock your soul then nothing will.”

Others arrested in the sting include two men who worked on Disney property: a chef at the Grand Floridian resort and a food runner for the Boathouse restaurant in Disney Springs. They were employed by third-party companies.

Judd said one man brought a new iPhone as a gift for who he thought was an underage girl, as well as sex toys, condoms and male enhancement pills.

Another suspect is a former military police officer who had been previously arrested, convicted and on federal probation for lewd and lascivious molestation of a child.

The suspects face a total of 58 charges, including attempted lewd and lascivious molestation, using a communication device to commit a felony, traveling to meet a minor for the purposes of sex, attempted lewd battery and transmitting material harmful to a minor.

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