JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Fourteen men accused of soliciting online for sex with someone who they thought was a girl age 14 or under were arrested in Putnam County in an investigation involving 12 agencies called Operation Be Mine, law enforcement officials announced Wednesday.
Putnam County Sheriff Gator DeLoach said many of the men traveled to a house thinking they were meeting a child for sex.
"Instead, they were abruptly met at the door by members of the Putnam County SWAT team," DeLoach said a new conference Wednesday afternoon.
All of the men were arrested after undercover officers pretended to be young girls on social media and other online platforms for men trying to find children for sex. The operation began in early February.
"We look forward to prosecuting these cases and, hopefully, removing these folks from our communities," State Attorney R.J. Larizza said.
The men arrested range in age from 18 to 63. One works for the Florida Department of Corrections and the Florida National Guard, who had formerly worked for the Florida Department of Corrections. Two are college students and one is a bartender from Jacksonville. The only Putnam County resident arrested is a student at Interlachen High School.
Some of the 14 men traveled from Orlando, Madison and other Florida cities expecting to meet children for sex. Law enforcement agencies from Tallahassee to Orange Park to Gainesville assisted with the operation.
BOOKING PHOTOS: Faces, names of 14 arrested in Operation Be Mine
DeLoach said that this kind of behavior makes him sick to his stomach and he reminded parents to keep an eye on what their children are doing online and what information they are sharing with others.
"I hope it puts us on the map as an area that will not tolerate this type of nonsense," DeLoach said. "We do not welcome you here. Stay away."
Ranferes Servin, who lives in Crescent City, told News4Jax that he's always checking his children's phones to know what they're doing online. He said the 14 arrests reinforce the need for constant online monitoring.
"I have six kids. We need this type of thing out of the streets," Servin said. "I'm glad they found them and I'm glad they do more stuff like this to get these types of people out of this town and the state."
The sheriff said he will be working with the Putnam County School District to get online safety information to students.
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