ALTAMONTE SPRINGS, Fla. - Seminole County deputies arrested 50 people, including teachers, tourists and college students, in Central Florida in a weeklong online child sex exploitation sting.
According to deputies, the undercover operation, "Operation Cardea," had officers chatting online, through email and phone with people who believed they were talking with a minor or with an adult that had a minor available for sexual activity.
Arrestees ranged from ages 19 to 60 years old and including a Volusia County high school teacher, a tourist visiting from Turkey, school employees, college students and residents from out of state, according to a release.
Investigators say Jorge Ferreira, a science teacher at Ocoee Middle School, went to meet the undercover officers at a 7-Eleven thinking he was going to be meeting up with a 14-year-old boy.
David Miller, who works as an interpreter for deaf children at Lake Sybelia Elementary School in Orange County is accused of posting an online ad seeking a 13-year-old boy, according to investigators.
Anthony Wilks, a Seminole County school maintenance worker allegedly sent inappropriate pictures of himself to a detective he thought was an 11-year-old girl.
New Smyrna Beach High School English teacher Duncas St. Gelais is accused of bringing condoms to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.
"He sent us his actual photograph and was quoted by saying he had a lot to lose," detectives said.
Investigators said St. Gelais told them he had never propositioned any of his students.
It's the teachers who have made parents angry. One parent told Local 6 that her son trusted his teacher, and now he doesn't know who he can trust.
Rebecca Emery said, "My son's face was very distraught and he started to say, 'How do I know there's no more people working there that are doing this?' He also said, 'I trusted him.'"
Emery said St Gelais taught English at New Smyrna Beach High School until his arrest last week. Parents said the school never told them why the teacher was gone. It's unclear what the district has done with St Gelais since his arrest. Local 6 asked the district those questions and we're still waiting to hear back.
Deputies said the the offenders traveled from various cities and counties in Florida, the farthest away being from Pasco County, to have sex with children as young as 11 years old at a house in Oviedo.
Deputies made contact with the men on a variety of websites, with some of the men posting on classified ads looking for sex.
When the 50 men are released from jail on bond, they will be prohibited from having contact with children, including the school employees. At least two of the school employees have resigned.
The operation was a partnership with agencies from Casselberry, Longwood, Orlando, Oviedo and Sanford police officers, along with Brevard, Orange, Lake Manatee, Osceola, Polk, Sarasota and Volusia County Sheriff's Offices. The FBI and the FDLE also contributed to the investigation.
Additional safety information can be found in the FBI's "Parent's Guide to Internet Safety."
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