TAMPA, Fla. - Fifteen men were arrested Thursday though Sunday and charged with traveling to Polk County, Fla., from various locations in Florida to meet a minor for sex, or for related crimes, during an extensive undercover operation conducted by the Polk County Sheriff's Office, with assistance from U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the State Attorney's Office, Florida Attorney General's Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Citrus County Sheriff's Office, and the Lakeland and Plant City police departments.
"This investigation reveals the disturbing truth that some adults will go to great lengths to sexually exploit minors," said Susan McCormick, special agent in charge of ICE's Office of Homeland Security Investigations in Tampa. "Through our partnerships with state, local and other federal law enforcement agencies, ICE will continue to search out those who use the Internet to sexually exploit innocent children."
During the operation, nearly every suspect answered online advertisements posted by undercover detectives on an Internet advertising website seeking guidance their daughters described as girls aged 10 to14 years old.
The 15 suspects who were arrested had answered the ads, expressing an interest in responding to the house to engage in sexual acts with the girls, some of them saying they were willing to "teach" the children how to have sex. Some of the men also expressed an interest in having sex with the "mom" and the "child" at the same time.
After the suspects initially answered the ads, they then engaged the undercover detectives in subsequent emails, instant messages, and telephone calls, during which time the detectives offered the suspects to come to an undercover location in Polk County.
When the suspects arrived at the undercover location, they were placed under arrest.
"Despite the repeated warnings and media coverage of past operations, these perverted men freely chatted with undercover detectives who posed as men and women online. These men expressed specific desires to prey upon who they believed were innocent children," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "Some of the men even sent pornographic images of themselves to the detectives, and made very specific requests about what they wanted these children to do to them. We have proven once again that there are still predators out there, willing to use any means necessary to harm your children, and we will not stop conducting operations like these until these predators are behind bars."
Arrested on Thursday were: Brandon Cashen, 31, of Orlando, Fla.; Kevin Scott, 35, of Sarasota, Fla.; Joshua Adam Hunt, 19, of Plant City, Fla.; Jason Shulman, 36, of Lake Mary, Fla.
Arrested on Friday were: Javier Alberto Diaz, 23, of Kissimmee, Fla.; Robert Ferguson, 23, of Maitland, Fla.; and Tommy Dupre, 33, of St. Cloud, Fla.
Arrested on Saturday were: Donald Knuckles, 68, of Lake Placid, Fla.; Dominick Overeem, 40, of Orange City, Fla.; and William Jackson, 29, of Tampa.
Arrested in Sunday were: Gregory Alan Archambault II, 32, of New Port Richey, Fla.; Leon Brisson, 43, of Tampa, Fla.; Mark McClure, 43, of Brandon, Fla.; Raymond Damon, 43, of Plant City, Fla.; and Robert Chan, 38, of Dunedin, Fla.
ICE encourages the public to report suspected child predators and any suspicious activity through its toll-free hotline at 1-866-347-2423. This hotline is staffed around the clock by investigators. Suspected child sexual exploitation or missing children may be reported to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children, an Operation Predator partner, at 1-800-843-5678 or http://www.cybertipline.com.
This case is also part of the Department of Justice's Project Safe Childhood, a nationwide initiative launched in 2006 that is designed to protect children from online sexual exploitation and abuse. Led by the U. S. Attorney's Offices and DOJ's Child Exploitation and Obscenity Section, Project Safe Childhood marshals federal, state and local resources to better locate, apprehend, and prosecute individuals who exploit children via the internet, as well as identify and rescue victims. For more information on Project Safe Childhood, please visit www.projectsafechildhood.gov.