Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office
Investigative Operations Bureau
-Special Victims Unit
-Crimes Against Children Unit (CAC)
Patrol Operations Bureau
-Violent Crimes Task Force
Clearwater Police Department
Polk County Sheriff’s Office
Pasco County Sheriff’s Office
Osceola County Sheriff’s Office
Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
Lee County Sheriff’s Office
Sanford Police Department
Department of Homeland Security
-Homeland Security Investigations
-H.E.R.O. Child Rescue Corps (Human Exploitation Rescue Operation)
Unites States Air Force
-Office of Special Investigations
Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney’s Office
Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force
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 18 arrests. The operation named “Operation Guardian” 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.
“Operation Guardian” ran for 10-hour shifts for four days from Thursday, April 10th through Sunday, April 13, 2014.
The operation command center was run from the Clearwater Police Department located at 645 Pierce Street, Clearwater.
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.
A total of 18 suspects were arrested in “Operation Guardian.” The individuals ranging in ages from 22 to 70, were arrested on various charges to include Traveling to Meet a Minor, Use of Computer Services Prohibited and Possession of Child Pornography. Investigators say one of the suspects, arrested for traveling to meet a 12-year-old and for possession of child pornography, later told investigators his sexual interest was juveniles “diapers to 11 years old.” Another suspect planned to bring his “14 year old victim” to the condo where he worked where they could be alone and undisturbed. Yet another suspect engaged in a chat with investigators, after just having bonded out for the charge of traveling to meet a minor in this same operation.
The suspects (17) were arrested and transported to the Pinellas County Jail; one suspect, currently on active military, was turned over to the United States Air Force to face charges through the Uniform Code of Military Justice.
The investigation continues.