At the end of September, Florida law enforcement officials arrested 23 suspected child predators and human traffickers. The arrests came after the police engaged in a four-day sting operation. During the sting operation, the officers used popular online phone applications to pretend to be underage children. Police officers called the sting operation “Operation Intercept VII.” Law enforcement officers arrested 23 suspects ranging in age from 21 to 77.
How Did Law Enforcement Officers Discover the Alleged Predators?
The law enforcement officials involved set several snares to catch alleged child predators. The officers set up online advertisements, profiles on popular applications, and profiles on social media websites. The alleged child predators responded to the advertisements and social media profiles. One suspect sent over 90 sexually explicit photographs to the detective on the other end of the snare.
The detectives behind the operation sent the alleged sexual predators their addresses. Several of the suspects brought condoms with them to the meet-up. One suspect brought candy and another brought a sex-toy.
Parents Should be Extremely Careful When it Comes to Online Access
A Florida sheriff’s office has warned parents about the dangers of online application usage. In a recent statement, he reminded parents that they are the first defense between their innocent children and sexual predators. Some of the following applications as the most dangerous for young adults and children:
- Plenty of Fish
When teenagers are more technologically savvy than their parents, they may be able to successfully hide dangerous application usage. Nonetheless, there are several applications that parents can use to block apps known to be dangerous. It can be challenging to protect children from online predators.
Traveling With the Intent of Having Sex With a Child
Florida law enforcement officers have arrested all 23 suspects for traveling with the intent of having sex with a child. Florida Statute 847.0135(4) makes it illegal to travel any distance within, from, or to Florida “for the purpose of engaging in unlawful sexual conduct with an after having used an online service or electronic device to seduce, solicit, lure, or entice the child to engage in unlawful sexual conduct.”
In many instances, prosecutors who charge a defendant with traveling with the intent of having sex with a child also charge the defendant with the crime of soliciting a child for unlawful sex through a computer. It is important to understand that suspects cannot make the defense that a law enforcement agent was undercover, pretending to be a child. Law enforcement officers are free to pose as a child or child’s parent during the undercover investigation. Another undercover investigation technique that cannot be raised as a defense is known as the “bait-and-switch.” This occurs when the law enforcement officer begins the conversation by proposing to engage in lawful sexual behavior. But the undercover officer then quickly changes the conversation from having a legal sexual relationship to an unlawful sexual encounter with a minor child. In Florida, those convicted face up to 15 years in jail, 15 years probation and up to a $10,000 fine.
If you are facing a criminal charge of Traveling to Meet a Minor to commit an Unlawful Sex Act, we can help. Our experienced Orlando criminal defense attorneys can skillfully advocate on your behalf. Contact our law office today to set up your free initial consultation.