MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods discussed a six-day undercover child sex sting Tuesday that resulted in the arrest of 27.
At a news conference, Woods said 22 of the arrests were local, including someone who works in a school system, a Florida Department of Corrections officer and the son of Ocala City Council member Ire Bethea Sr.
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Woods said the culprits traveled to meet who they thought were young children for sex. Another three stand accused of sending sexually explicit images but did not travel to meet who they believed were minors, officials said.
“These are the press conferences that you don’t really like doing. It brings light to the true evil and ugliness of our world of today,” Woods said. “My notes have down here to call these individuals pieces of scum. Well, most of y’all know me. I think they’re pieces of (expletive).”
Woods said the details are disturbing.
“You got one individual who thought he was meeting a 12-year-old paraplegic individual to have sex,” Woods said. “It infuriates me. As a father, my blood boils to think this occurs on a regular basis.”
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Woods highlighted a few arrests at the news conference, saying Victor Cruz, 23, a corrections officer, and Ire Bethea Jr., 38, both sought sex with whom they thought was a 14-year-old girl. Woods did not provide details about the contracted employee who works at a school. Marion County school officials on Wednesday said the vendor’s privileges of working on campus have been revoked.
Woods stressed to parents the importance of keeping tabs on their children, especially their computer habits.
“Every day, there is somebody out there trying to get your teen into a dark place,” Woods said.
Woods added he will continue to hunt down child sex predators.
“I will use every resource in my power to hunt you down,” he said. “I want this community to know they are the predators. They are the ones preying on your innocent children every day. Our detectives didn’t ask them to have sex. They are the ones who reached out. These predators go where children are.”