Central Florida Sting Nets 41 Charged with Sex Crimes Against Children
Forty-one people were arrested recently in what is being called the largest sting operation of its kind in Polk County, Florida. The weeklong undercover investigation involved a collaboration of multiple agencies to target individuals suspected of online sex crimes against children.
Detectives posed as minors online
As reported by the Orlando Sentinel, 40 men and one woman were arrested in the sting after allegedly responding to Internet advertisements and chatting online with undercover detectives posing as minors. The accused individuals have been charged with a variety of criminal offenses, including:
- Transmitting harmful material to a minor.
- Attempted lewd battery.
- Traveling to meet a minor.
Several of those facing charges in connection to the sting had allegedly traveled to Polk County from nearby areas, including Orange County, Osceola County and Seminole County. Under Florida Law, it is a second-degree felony to travel any distance to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a minor or any individual believed to be a minor. Convicted individuals can face harsh penalties, including up to 15 years in prison in addition to any other penalties they may be facing.
Tough on sex crimes against minors
The Polk County Sheriff's Department is well known throughout the region for its particularly aggressive approach to addressing sex crimes against children, and its intensity has continued to increase in recent years.
The PCSD was named Coordinator of the Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force in 2007, and since then the task force has grown to include dozens of representatives from state, local and federal agencies. The Lake County Sheriff's Department, which is also known for its tough stance on sexual offenses involving children, is also affiliated with the task force.
Enforcement efforts increase in recent years
In 2011 alone, according to a press release from the Polk County Sheriff's Department, the Central Florida ICAC Task Force conducted seven undercover operations and investigated 1,156 cases of suspected Internet crimes against children - an increase of 37 percent from the year before. As a result of their investigations, in 2011 the task force arrested 306 people suspected of sexual offenses against children, including:
- Distribution of child pornography.
- Use of a computer to seduce a child.
- Traveling to meet a minor.
- Lewd battery.
- Use of a computer to solicit a minor to engage in sex.
Because the potential consequences can be severe and life-changing, it is important to get help right away from a skilled defense lawyer if you or a loved one is accused of a sexual offense in Florida. An attorney with broad knowledge of Florida's laws and judicial system can help ensure that you are treated fairly by investigators and prosecutors, and will fight tirelessly on your behalf to give you the best possible defense.