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

Polk County Sheriff's cruisers aerials
Posted at 2:41 PM, Aug 03, 2021
and last updated 2021-08-03 14:41:37-04

17 people have been arrested by Polk Sheriff's Office in an undercover investigation called "Operation Child Protector."

The operation was from July 27 through August 1, during which detectives posed as juveniles on social media platforms, mobile apps, and online dating sites to investigate those who prey upon and travel to meet children for unlawful sexual activity.

Detectives from the Auburndale Police Department, Orlando Police Department, Winter Haven Police Department, and Orange County Sheriff’s Office, participated in “Operation Child Protector.”

Investigators say the suspects communicated with and solicited who they thought were children between the ages of 13 and 14 for sex acts. They say the suspects showed up to an undercover location in Polk County at separate times to meet who they thought were children, to sexually batter them.

Some of them transmitted pornographic images while grooming and soliciting the children online, and they were appropriately charged for that as well, PCSO says.

In all, detectives arrested 17 suspects, who face a total of 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges which include: traveling to meet a minor for sex, attempted lewd battery, use of a computer to seduce a child, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and transmission of material harmful to a child; six suspects brought condoms, and nine suspects have criminal histories (with 27 total previous felonies, and 22 total previous misdemeanors). The youngest suspect arrested is 26 years old, and the two oldest suspects are 47 years old.

They were all from the central Florida area, except one suspect who was here visiting from California.

Among those arrested were a lifeguard at Disney's Animal Kingdom Lodge, a registered nurse and a professional poker player.