Thirty men arrested in online predator sting in Sarasota County


Dozens of people are facing criminal charges after an online predator sting.  Thirty men were busted in Operation Intercept 2, a week-long sting in Sarasota County.


Sarasota Sheriff Thomas Knight says the suspects responded to internet ads or social media posts and got involved in sexually explicit conversations.  Then they came to a location in Sarasota County, where detectives took them into custody.


Sheriff Knight says the suspects thought they were meeting a child, but in reality, they were chatting with detectives. Investigators say they showed up with things like drugs, handcuffs and sex kits.


Sheriff Knight says he has some advice for parents. Knight said,  "In this day and age with electronics now, it is much more difficult. So I would encourage parents to become much more engaged and learn how to use and understand computer systems. Understand where these children are at, what they're doing."


Kenneth Hayward, a retired teacher, lives across the street from one of the suspects. Hayward said,  "They need to be eliminated, point blank.  That's my bottom line on it.  We don't need them.  Kids are too precious."


The alleged predators range from 21 to 64 years old and in one case, the sheriff says they traveled from 200 miles away. 


The suspects face charges ranging from traveling to solicit a child to transmission of material harmful to minors.


State attorney Ed Brodsky says the alleged crimes carry high conviction rates.  "These cases are very well-documented. Very well-recorded. There's strong evidence and I think we're having very good success here in our communities in successful prosecution of these cases."


Sheriff Knight says the crackdown is far from over. He says there will be another operation in the near future. 

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