In less than two weeks, Citrus County deputies have arrested two men in unrelated cases who reportedly courted underage girls online, helped them to runaway from home and then persuaded the teen's to engage in sex acts with them.
Jesse Laramee Jr., 21, of 6648 W. Pelican Lane in Homosassa, was arrested Jan. 28 and charged with three counts of lewd and lascivious battery.
Citrus County deputies say he courted a 15-year-old girl online and struck up a relationship almost a year ago.
Laramee Jr. reportedly messaged the girl on Facebook and then began dating the teen despite knowing her age.
An arrest report states that Laramee Jr. persuaded the teen to runaway from home and on one occasion ditch school.
Deputies said Jan. 26 the victim skipped school, messaged Laramee Jr. via her cellphone and he picked her up and took her back to his home. Once there, deputies say Laramee Jr. and the teen engaged in sex acts. After, Laramee Jr. dropped the teen back off at school and she took the school bus home, deputies explained.
The next day, the teen left her home and Laramee Jr. again picked her up. That is when the teen's father noticed she was missing and filed a report.
According to deputies, Laramee Jr. brought the teen to his home and they once again engaged in sex acts.
An arrest affidavit shows that during questioning, the teen told authorities she also engaged with sex acts with Laramee Jr. in his car on Jan. 1.
Deputies arrested Laramee Jr. during a traffic stop Jan. 28. According to Laramee Jr., he told authorities he first met the teen Jan. 27 when she showed up at his house. He claims the teen slept in his room until deputies found her there and woke her up.
Laramee Jr. denied having any sexual contact with the teen.
"I don't go around trying to sleep with little girls, that's not what I do," said Laramee Jr.
He claims the teen lied to him about her age and he did not have knowledge she was 15 years old.
"Honestly, do you think I deserve to be a sex offender for the rest of my life? Have to register for the rest of my life because I had sex with a 15-year-old girl that lied to me and wanted to have sex? Do you guys honestly think I should be a sex offender for the rest of my life?" Laramee asked.
Investigators on the case say Laramee Jr. admitted he knew the girl's real age.
"Knowledge of age is not a defense," said Detective Anthony Ricci with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office Major Crimes Unit.
Ricci told ABC Action News Laramee Jr. was out on bond for a similar offense involving a different underage girl he met online when arrested on this latest case.
His mother still feels her son is the victim.
"I think it is time for us to start looking at the girls because there are too many young boys, 20, 21, 19, that are getting this bum rap," said Licia Holt. "You should see some of the pictures, I mean wow!"
Laramee Jr. is out on $30,000 bond.
DUNNELLON MAN ACCUSED OF HAVING SEX WITH UNDERAGE RUNAWAY
A 23-year-old Citrus County man is accused of having sex with an underage runaway, despite knowing the girl was only 15 years old, deputies say.
Mason Davis of Dunnellon is now facing two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count of contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
According to deputies, they began investigating a missing juvenile Dec. 13, 2015. Deputies said when they found the girl, she told them she had engaged in sexual activity with Davis and then Davis dropped her back off at her home.
During an interview Jan. 7, the teen reportedly told authorities she snuck out of her house, Davis picked her up and they went to his home and engaged in sexual intercourse.
The teen stated she had sex with Davis on at least five occasions between November 2015 and December 2015.
According to the teen, she was never threatened or given alcohol or drugs. The teen did tell authorities she and Davis discussed her age prior to sexual contact, an arrest affidavit shows.
Davis is being held on $21,000 bond.
ABC Action News knocked at the Davis home Gardenia Street but a woman who answered the door declined to comment.
"It's a big deal with maturity," sand Det. Bryan Melhado with the Citrus County Sheriff's Office. "This is a 23-year-old taking advantage of some young person just looking for attention."
KEEPING YOUR CHILDREN SAFE
According to Detective Melhado, older men taking advantage of underage girls is a growing trend in the area.
He said parents can help prevent these types of crime by being proactive.
"I think what has happened over the years is social media has replaced the electronic babysitter, which was a TV because for many years children or young teenagers would have a TV in their room and no way to communicate with their friends," Melhado explained.
"And when the cell phone came along and the opportunity to send texts back and forth, that now becomes their contact with their friends and because of that, the friends themselves don't tell their parents who they are communicating with. The parents are happy, the kids are in the bedroom, they're quiet, they're not saying much. And, unless they need help with homework, I don't think parents are walking in and saying, 'Hey, what can we do?'"
Melhado told ABC Action News if parents have any concerns they need to call the Sheriff's Office.
The Sheriff's Office also has booklets parents can pick up titled, "Think First & Safety First." It is a guide to teach children how to prevent sexual abuse, abduction, bullying, intolerance, cyber exploitation and school violence.
Deputies say the best way to prevent online sexual abuse or e-luring is via supervision, education and trust.
Parental tips include;
- Familiarize yourself with the technology your children are using: email, chatting, gaming, texting, IMing, social networking, video-chat and web/cell phone camera use.
- Supervise and interact with your child online and electronically.
- Know your child's passwords.
- Acknowledge if your child is more tech savvy than you, and ask for their assistance.
- Use local and national news stories concerning Internet and electronic crimes as teachable moments.
- Familiarize yourself with Internet text/chat acronyms.
- Let your child know that for their safety you will be monitoring their email, texting and cell phone use from time to time. Then do so.
- Praise good behavior.
- Take privileges away if you child abuses any form of technology.