CLAY COUNTY, Fla. - An undercover sting landed 17 men in the Clay County jail after deputies said the suspects tried to solicit sex from minors online.
Operation Wrong Destination was a five-day investigation that authorities say every parent needs to know about.
Undercover detectives posed as young girls on different social media sites, and within five days they had men flying and driving to the area to meet up and have sex with them, deputies said. While 13 of the men were from Northeast Florida, two were Army men based at Fort Stewart, Ga., and others traveled from Alabama and Pennsylvania.
MUG SHOTS: 17 men facing sex charges
"The usual aim of these predators is to gradually seduce their targets by providing them with some type of attention, affection or the promise of gifts, or simply sympathizing with the minor during a problem they are experiencing," said Col. Craig Aldrich, of the Clay County Sheriff's Office. "It's during these interactions that these predators begin to introduce some type of sexual content into their conversations or by showing the minor sexually explicit materials."
The suspects were booked into jail on felony charges of traveling to meet a minor to engage in unlawful sex and using a two-way communication device to facilitate that act.
"All of these suspects are adults, ranging in age from 20 to 53 years of age. Many are married, some are single, most have no criminal record, and two of them have some kind of law enforcement interaction," said Aldrich.
Their occupations run the gamut. Some are unemployed, while others are pizza delivery workers, truck drivers, even active duty military personnel.
The undercover sting was done just last week and involved multiple agencies, including the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force. Investigators say the goal was two-fold with this operation. First, they wanted to keep dangerous child predators off the streets and also wanted this to serve as an educational tool for parents.
"These guys are very aggressive in their activity," said Aldrich. "They know what they want, they have a specific profile that they're trying to meet and they don't stop at anything until they have met that desire."
They said it's important for parents to create a dialogue with children about the dangers lurking behind that computer monitor or cellphone. Deputies also stressed the need for parents to monitor their children's Internet activity, including their passwords and social media accounts.
"You need to know their passwords, who they're blogging with, who they're befriending, who's showing them affection, who's showing them attention," Aldrich said. "Those are all measures in which you can implement to curtail some of this from occurring with your kid."
All 16 suspects were being held on $100,000 bond, and a few have posted that bond.
Those arrested were Vincent Ricci, Isaiah Salowitz, Michael Sculley, Jared Snow, Kenneth Sprague, Danny Vargas, Jamie Crowther, Andrew Johnston, Brad Lang, Clyde Littleman, Vladimir Mirzoyev, Victor Morales, John Perritt, Matthew Pike, Steven Pinkham, Charles Ressler and Danny Pasicolan.
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