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14-015 “Operation Home Alone” Nets 35 Arrests

Who:
Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
Investigative Operations Bureau
-Special Victims Unit
-Crimes Against Children Unit (CAC)
Patrol Operations Bureau
-Violent Crimes Task Force (PCSO and SPPD)
-DUI/SEU Unit

Clearwater Police Department

St. Petersburg Police Department
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Department of Homeland Security
-Homeland Security Investigations
-H.E.R.O. Child Rescue Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operation)
Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE)
Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)
United States Air Force
-Office of Special Investigations
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office

Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force

What:
A four day operation, which sought out individuals who chat with “minors” on-line for the purpose of meeting them and engaging them in sexual activity, has resulted in a total of 35 arrests. The operation dubbed “Operation Home Alone” was a partnership between the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearwater Police Department. Several other agencies, listed above, contributed personnel to the operation.

When:
“Operation Home Alone” ran for four days beginning Thursday, January 23rd, 2014 thru the early morning hours of Monday, January 27th, 2014. The operation ran each day for 12 hours from 2:00 p.m. to 2:00 a.m. the following morning.

Where:
The operation command center was set up at the Clearwater Police Department located at 645 Pierce Street, Clearwater.

Why/How:
Through the course of the four day operation, investigators or “chatters” posing as minors went on various websites to include on-line classified pages, social media sites and various chat rooms. During their online engagement, investigators established rapport with the subjects and developed cases in which the individuals arranged to meet with the “minor” for the purpose of sexual activity. Investigators say in their on-line communication, the subjects explicitly sought out minors for sex; or adults with access to minors that they could engage in sexual activity.

Investigators say a total of four north Pinellas county locations were established as “meeting places.” The arrests were conducted at these locations when the suspects showed up to meet the “minor”; or the “complicit adult.”

A total of 35 suspects were arrested in “Operation Home Alone.” The individuals were arrested on various charges to include Use of Computer Services Prohibited, Traveling to Meet a Minor, Seduction of a Minor, and Transmission of Material Harmful to a Minor. The suspects were arrested and transported to the Pinellas County Jail.

During a press conference today announcing the results,  Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Clearwater Police Department Chief Anthony Holloway said their efforts in this regard would not end here.

“We are not going to stop until we purge Pinellas County of these predators,” said Sheriff Gulatieri, calling this the number one public safety issue in Pinellas County at the moment.

“If these predators are going after our children, we’re going to make sure we go after these predators,” said Chief Holloway.

Both the Sheriff and the Chief said they were pleased with the results of the joint operation and credited its success to the hard work and cooperation of all of the partnering agencies.

The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Clearwater Police Department and the participating agencies are part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force (ICAC).

The investigation continues.

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