BARTOW, Fla. – More than a dozen men, including theme park workers and a youth football coach, were arrested in a sex sting in Polk County, according to authorities.
[WEB EXTRA: Many arrested in sex stings avoid prison]
The Polk County Sheriff's Office said 18 suspects were arrested or charged in Operation April's Fools, an undercover investigation that ran from Tuesday, March 29 to Monday, April 4.
During the operation, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads or profiles on various social media platforms, websites and mobile phone applications, posing as children or as custodians of children, officials said.
Deputies said numerous men responded to the ads and chatted online, emailed, texted and talked on the phone with undercover detectives. Some of the detectives also responded to profiles and online ads.
Sheriff's officials said the suspects solicited who they thought were children as young as 13 years old for sex acts. Two suspects solicited who they thought was the father of a 10-year-old girl to have sex with her, according to officials. Some suspects sent pornographic pictures of themselves, and some asked for nude photos of the children to be sent to them, deputies said. Several of the men drove to the house to follow through with the promises made online to engage in sexual activity with the juveniles, according to authorities.
The 18 suspects face a total of 103 charges, ranging from attempted lewd battery, use of a computer to seduce a child and traveling to meet a minor.
Among the arrestees were:
- Arthur Joseph Nelson, 19, of Orlando, who's accused of going to the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, officials said. He told detectives that he works as a janitor at Discovery Cove.
- Jeffrey Erich Binder, 26, of Winter Garden, who's accused of going to the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. He said he works as a security guard at Walt Disney World, and his uniform was in his car, officials said.
- Jerin Jolly James, 28, of Celebration, who's accused of going to the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. He told detectives that he is married and works as a technician at Florida Hospital in Orlando, officials said.
- Pedro Emilio Portillo, 24, of Apopka, who's accused of going to the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl. He told detectives that he works at Mullinax Ford as a manager, officials said.
- Robert Michael Gordon, 20, of Clermont, who's accused of going to the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. He told detectives that is a football coach at Central Florida Christian Academy in Orlando and a produce clerk at Publix, officials said.
After Gordon's arrest, Central Florida Christian Academy issued a statement:
"Central Florida Christian Academy (CFCA) has learned that Mr. Rob Gordon was arrested over the weekend by the Polk County Sheriff's Department. Mr. Gordon had resigned from CFCA before these allegations were known to us.
"Gordon began with CFCA in January as a volunteer equipment manager after serving in a similar role at a large local public high school for the 2015 season. Through his equipment duties, Gordon had been assisting the CFCA football coaching staff for the spring 7-on-7 season. Gordon’s duties with the school were relegated exclusively to after school practices and his role did not afford him any opportunities to be alone with students.
CFCA followed all protocol for the application and screening process for Gordon and he was additionally cleared with Level II State and National background screening.
"We take seriously the quality of all volunteers and staff that work with our students and nothing through the process of Gordon's background, references, or personal testimony indicated that the reason for his arrest would be an area of concern. As a school, we have initiated investigation into his time on our campus outside of his volunteer role.
"Our CFCA family grieves alongside the entirety of our community over this situation."