POLK COUNTY, Fla. – An undercover cyber investigation led to the arrest of 13 Florida men the Polk County Sheriff's Office said were attempting to meet 13- and 14-year-old children for sex after meeting them in online chat rooms.
Sheriff's Office officials said detectives posed as children online and the suspects solicited sex from them, arranging to meet. However, when the men arrived, they were met by undercover detectives.
"These predators are out there, trying to sexually seduce and violate children. They lurk in chat rooms and online, ready to groom children for sex," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "Fortunately, because of the great work of our detectives, at least 13 of them won't be doing that any time soon."
Judd discussed details of the arrests and the operation on Tuesday at the Sheriff's Office.
The suspects, whose ages range from the 20s to 50s, are from Kissimmee, Monteverde, Lake Mary, Davenport, Winter Haven, Orlando and Holiday, according to officials. Some of the men include a former U.S. Air Force police officer, a chef at Walt Disney World's Grand Floridian Resort and a food runner at the Boathouse restaurant located at Disney Springs. Another suspect is HIV positive and solicited a boy he thought was 14 for unprotected sex, according to the news release.
“If this doesn’t shock your soul then nothing will," Judd said of the actions of the men arrested.
Judd said one suspect, Justin Kinard, 24, of Lake Mary, was out on bail for a charge of obscene communication with a minor when he was arrested by Polk County authorities.
Investigators say that while Kinard thought he was messaging a 14-year-old girl online he told her "If i get in trouble I go to prison, you just get grounded."
Judd warned parents, saying children are not looking out for predators when they’re online, but that predators are looking for those children.
"If they're not locked up, they are a danger to children," the sheriff said.
The men face a total of 58 charges.