Operation ‘April Fools’: 27 men arrested in Marion County child sex sting

Florida sheriff Billy Woods: ‘I think they’re pieces of (expletive)’

22 men arrested after seeking sex with children in "Operation April Fools"

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – A six-day undercover child sex sting Tuesday resulted in the arrest of 27 men, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said.

At a news conference, Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods said 22 of the arrests were local, including someone who works in a school system, a Florida Department of Corrections officer and the son of Ocala City Council member Ire Bethea Sr. (WKMG)

Woods said the culprits traveled to meet who they thought were young children for sex. Another three stand accused of sending sexually explicit images but did not travel to meet who they believed were minors, officials said.

[Become a News4JAX Insider -- it’s free!]

“These are the press conferences that you don’t really like doing. It brings light to the true evil and ugliness of our world of today,” Woods said. “My notes have down here to call these individuals pieces of scum. Well, most of y’all know me. I think they’re pieces of (expletive).”

Woods said the details are disturbing.

“You got one individual who thought he was meeting a 12-year-old paraplegic individual to have sex,” Woods said. “It infuriates me. As a father, my blood boils to think this occurs on a regular basis.”

Woods stressed to parents the importance of keeping tabs on their children, especially their computer habits.

“Every day, there is somebody out there trying to get your teen into a dark place,” Woods said.

Click here to read the full story from News4JAX sister station WKMG Click Orlando.

[Watch the full news conference here]

About the Authors:

Daniel started with WKMG-TV in 2000 and became the digital content manager in 2009. When he's not working on ClickOrlando.com, Daniel likes to head to the beach or find a sporting event nearby.

Carianne Luter is an Award-Winning Digital Media and Engagement Manager for News4Jax and has worked at Channel 4 since December 2015. She won "Best Social Media Engagement Strategy" during the Local Media Association 2022 Digital Innovation Awards. She graduated from the University of North Florida with a communication degree.