Seventeen men accused of soliciting underage girls and boys to arrange to meet in Jacksonville for sex were arrested and two more men are wanted after an online, undercover sting organized by the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff Mike Williams said these men thought they were talking to 13- or 14-year-old girls or boys in chat rooms and other online forums. When they went to meet their victims, the men were met by detectives and left in handcuffs.
The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office called it Operation DUVAL, standing for Disrupting Underage Virtual Abuse Locally. JSO detectives teamed with nearly a dozen other law enforcement agencies in the trolling sting.
The men accused range in age from 19 to 67. Most of them lived in Jacksonville, but some traveled from out of state, Clay County or Orlando thinking they were meeting a child for sex. Some of them had no prior criminal histories. One was a convicted sexual offender.
One of the men, Edward Arthur Stanley, 60, is a victim advocate for the Department of Defense in North Carolina. While in Jacksonville for a victim advocate conference, police said he tried to meet at a 14-year-old girl for sex.
Mohammad Malek, 67, of St. Marys, Georgia, also prearranged a meeting with someone he believed was a 13-year-old, investigators said. Because he is also a Department of Defense employee, he is being charged with a federal charge of attempted enticement and coercion of a minor.
According to JSO, Alex George, 29, posted online: "Good looking white daddy for young baby girl (Southside)." His arrest report explains George thought he was making a deal for sex with a 13-year-old's father.
Anthony Mark Jacobs, 22, tried to solicit a child for sex using the online social networking service OkCupid, the Sheriff's Office said. He responded to the profile of an 18-year-old. At one point the teen told Jacobs she was really 14-years-old. Jacobs responded, "can't talk to minors" because he was on "probation."
"I think there’s a drive in some of these people, as evil as it is, that they cannot control," Williams said.
The sheriff said this should serve as a reminder to all parents to warn their children about predators and monitor where they are going and who they are talking to online.
"There may not be any fixing of these people, but if the parents can get a hold of that and work on the prevention side of the equation, I think we will be in better shape as a community," Williams said.