This summer, Central Florida was the site of one of the largest-ever sting operations to catch adults who prey on minors. The operation nabbed a total of 41 alleged sex offenders on charges ranging from attempted lewd battery to using a computer to seduce a minor.
The operation followed the same format as other stings: detectives created online accounts under fake names and pretended to be minors. If adults initiated sexual discussions and wanted to meet, the “teens” would direct them to a location for a supposed in-person meet-ups, where they would be arrested.
What sets this particular sting apart is the staggering scope. Conducted by the Polk and Lake County Sheriffs’ Departments, the sting lasted only a week and still caught 40 men and 1 woman, including many who traveled from other counties to meet with supposed minors (a felony). Not only is that a lot of suspects, it’s only the latest group: Polk County conducts the stings more than once a year, and there have been seven stings across Central Florida this year alone.
If those who were arrested are convicted, the consequences will be appropriately steep. Depending on the specific charges, the suspects could face 15 years in prison and be registered as sex offenders. Once registered, any community they live in will be alerted to their criminal background even long after they serve their time.
For those suspects who traveled, the penalties are even tougher. Florida treats traveling to meet a minor as a felony, because it indicates a higher level of commitment and determination to meet a minor for sexual relations. Felons lose the right to vote, own weapons or gain professional licenses, such as a teacher’s license, often for life. A number of the suspects arrested in the sting allegedly traveled from other counties.
All these consequences are designed to help service justice – particularly by preventing sexual offenders from having more opportunities with minors after they’re released from prison. That goes a long way to help protect the community, but it does not always help to ease the suffering of victims of sex abuse.
In Florida, victims of child sexual abuse – and their families – are able to sue for damages. Nothing can ever compensate for sexual trauma as a child, but the money awarded can be used to help afford treatment and rebuild a ruined life.
Of the 41 adults arrested in this summer’s sting, hopefully none had a chance to act with a real minor before police caught them. If you or someone you love has been abused and the abuser worked for an organization that enabled the abuse to occur, you have options. And at Steinger, Iscoe & Greene, we want to answer all of your questions and help you make the best legal choices possible.
Contact Steinger, Iscoe and Greene today for a free consultation.