Law enforcement officers in Florida’s Marion County have arrested a dozen men in a sting operation to catch sexual predators who use the internet to target children.
According to the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the 12 defendants were caught chatting online with users who they believed to be children. In reality, the suspects were talking with undercover detectives.
The men arrested in the operation are 18-year-old Allen Vasquez of Jacksonville, Donald Dziadyk, Brayant McCullough, 21-year-old Robin Strickland of Gainesville, Ryan Boyette, 51-year-old Lonny Blankenship of Lake City, Robert Salch, 31-year-old Robert Hilse, Jason Sciongay, 31-year-old Dunte Campbell of Jacksonville, Koree Lee, and Jorge Cruz Ordonez.
Four of the men are accused of sending sexually explicit images during the online conversations. Of the 12, eight men allegedly made arrangements to meet and have sex with the child who they believed they were talking to online.
All eight of the men traveled to a location in Marion County, allegedly believing that they were about to engage in sex with a minor. However, upon arriving at the agreed upon meeting point, each suspect was greeted by law enforcement officers and placed under arrest.
Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods asked parents to make it their business to know what their children get up to when they are online.
“My message to parents, I want to make something clear: You need to be fully aware of where your children are talking online. Be aware of their social media,” said Woods, “because all of these individuals, for some of them, this might be their first offense, but I promise you it’s not their first time.”
He also issued a warning to those who would use the internet as a tool to sexually exploit children.
“To the would-be, vile individuals that are doing this and are seeking children in Marion County, be assured that I will find you, I will put handcuffs on you, and I will put you in my jail,” said Woods.
“My deputies will spend hours upon hours hunting you down. Now, my job is bringing people to justice, but if it was my choice, I’d bury you under the jail, if I could. Don’t come to Marion County.”