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12 arrested for preying on children online, Polk County Sheriff's Office says

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Posted at 11:43 AM, Jun 17, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-17 18:13:33-04

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — The Polk County Sheriff's Office announced that 12 people were arrested during an undercover investigation focused on individuals who preyed on children online.

The suspects arrested in "Operation Child Protector II," per a press release from the sheriff's office, were from Lakeland, Orlando, Palm Beach Gardens, Clermont, Tampa, Kissimmee, Lehigh Acres and Tallahassee. Two of the suspects were from out of state: Alabama and Michigan.

In total, the 12 suspects were arrested for a total of 49 felonies, which included the following:

  • traveling to meet a minor for sex
  • attempted lewd battery
  • use of a computer to seduce a child
  • use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony
  • transmission of material harmful to a child

The Polk County Sheriff's office said the youngest suspect arrested is 20 years old, and the oldest suspect is 67 years old.

Of the suspects who had warrants, all of them sent sexually explicit images and/or videos to who they thought were 13, 14, and 15-year-old girls. Two of the suspects are from out of state and are in custody there, in Michigan and Alabama. Three of these suspects have criminal histories.

"Four of the suspects traveled to an undercover location to have sex with who they thought were 13 or 15-year-old girls," the Polk County Sheriff's Office said. "The other eight suspects had warrants for their arrests after grooming and sending sexually explicit content to who they thought were 13, 14, and 15-year-old girls. They were arrested on Polk County warrants and booked into jails in Polk and other counties."

RELATED: 17 arrested in Polk undercover operation targeting those preying on children online

The arrested include:
Lawrence Neu, 67, of Lakeland, Fla.
Francis "Frank" Butler, 62, of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.
Zachary Clark, 26, of Tampa, Fla.
Timothy King, 26, Clermont, Fla.
Zachary Hudson, 30, of Reunion, Fla.
Christopher Sean Valez, 33, of Tampa
Michael Occhino, 57, of Kissimmee, Fla.
George Elec Matthews, 66, of Ozark, Ala.
Nando Castellar, 20, of Orlando, Fla.
Johnny Hughley, 43, of Lehigh Acres, Fla.
Roger Dennis Fleury, 40, of Saint Claire, Mich.
Cameon Ohlin, 26, of Tallahasse, Fla.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said the Auburndale and Winter Haven Police Departments participated in "Operation Child Protector II."

“The overwhelming majority of these people weren't from Polk County. What we do is we throw a wide net. This time it went as far as Alabama and Michigan to arrest people... They were grooming and doing real nasty things online, all across this neighborhood, this community, this county, this state," Sheriff Grady Judd said

The Auburndale Police Chief said this operation should encourage parents to monitor what their children are doing online.

“Make sure that you're having conversations with them. There are a lot of nefarious actors out there. And we just want parents and grandparents, people who are responsible for kids to be aware of that and to talk to their kids. It's an important conversation to have," Auburndale Chief of Police, Andy Ray, said.