An internet child sex sting operation in Hillsborough County recently concluded with the arrest of sixteen men in August. Among those arrested in “Operation Small Talk” were a registered sex offender, a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and former Manatee County Sheriff’s Office sergeant. Six of the men attempted to meet the fake teen in person. Some of the men even had adult items with them such as condoms and sex toys in anticipation of having sex with the child. Those arrested in Operation Small Talk are facing felony convictions, sex offender probation, registration as a sex offender and up to 15 years in prison if found guilty.
Then, again in October twenty-two men in the Tampa area were arrested in “Operation Social Bust” while attempting to arrange sex with detectives posing as teenage girls and boys using fake social media accounts. Most of the suspects were charged with a combination of using computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device. One suspect offered money to a detective he thought was a 15-year-old child. He then arrived at what he believed to be the child’s home with cash and condoms in his pocket. Because he arranged to pay for sex, he also faces a human trafficking charge.
During these types of operations, law enforcement officers typically pose online as young teens seeking sex with older adult males. Sometimes the officers pretend to be the parent of a child looking for sex. And, the undercover decoys usually also pretend to be the child themselves in some communications. Continue reading