Online predator sting nabs 13 men in 4 days

Operation Intercept IV Poster

SARASOTA COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – The Sarasota County Sheriff’s office busted 13 men who tried to have sex with underage boys and girls.

They were caught in Operation Intercept IV, a sting where child predators reached out to detectives posing as underage children.

The men ranged in age from 18-53 years old. They responded to Internet-based ads, online apps, or social media sites. These included Tinder, MeetMe, Craigslist, Plenty of Fish, and KIK.

The suspects were invited to a home in Sarasota county where deputies were waiting inside. Some of the men had sent explicit photos and several brought condoms with them. Officials say ultimately they all traveled with the intent to have sex with a child.

Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight said, “For me as sheriff that’s disturbing because of the 13 people we arrested over a 4 day period, that’s a lot more than we anticipated.”

The suspects traveled from surrounding counties including DeSoto, Pinellas, and Hillsborough, but more than half of the suspects live in Sarasota County.

The Sheriff is surprised that despite the frequency of these stings people still commit these crimes.

“It’s a perversion that I don’t understand but my hope is that the criminal justice system will give them an opportunity to get their lives straightened out and to understand why they believe that they have to have sex with underage children,” Sheriff Knight stated.

Knight said it’s likely many of these men have had sex with children before.

Sheriff Knight says it’s very easy for predators to lure children. That’s why it’s vital that parents be involved in their children’s lives.

He said, “It’s important for parents to be aware of what these young people, these children are doing on their iPhones and with their technology because they are being preyed upon by these individuals who are using these apps and trying to attract themselves to our youth in our county.”

Sheriff Knight said these stings are very expensive and labor intensive. But he feels it’s his duty to protect the children who live here.

“I wouldn’t be surprised if we do more of these operations,” he said.

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