Disney employee, 12 others arrested in Polk County child sex sting, deputies say

Some believed they were speaking with parents, arranging sex for ‘children,’ officials say

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd speaks at a news conference Friday, April 29, 2022. (Copyright 2022 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Thirteen men, including a Disney employee, were arrested in a child sex bust, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

The sheriff’s office said Thursday that the “Operation Cyber Guardian 2″ investigation resulted in the arrests of Disney, Publix and Amazon employees, as well as a school internet safety program installer.

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“Three of the suspects believed they were speaking with a parent or guardian of a child who wanted to teach their ‘child’ to have sex or arranging for the minor to have sex with the suspect,” the sheriff’s office said in a release.

Eight of the men traveled to undercover locations to have sex with children, officials said, and the other five participated in sexually explicit conversations or sent harmful material to whom they thought were children.

One of the men, 35, was a service technician at LineWise who worked to “install internet safety firewall blocking systems at schools to protect children from sexual predators.”

Another, a 42-year-old-man from Winter Garden, was a 16-year employee at Disney World who worked in service tech and before that, was employed “in a program for a couple of the parks that were doing public relations for children.”

“These are the people who are online trying to groom your children. And they go to areas where you would find children. They go to gaming sites, they go to social apps that attract young children and they hang out... in public parks,” Judd said at the news briefing. “That’s why we say clearly and unequivocally parents you’re the first line of defense.”

According to Florida Department of Law Enforcement special agent Mark Brutnell, the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children received 29 million tips for child sexual exploitation in 2021 alone.

“As a law enforcement officer and as a father, that’s concerning. That’s also unacceptable. We’ve got to do a better job of talking to our kids and turning these folks in,” Brutnell said. “So again, to echo the sheriff’s comments, I implore you parents tonight have those difficult conversations with your kids about the internet.”

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About the Authors:

Samantha started at WKMG-TV in September 2020. Before joining the News 6 team, Samantha was a political reporter for The Villages Daily Sun and has had freelance work featured in the Evansville Courier-Press and The Community Paper. When not writing, she enjoys travelling and performing improv comedy.

Brenda Argueta is a digital journalist who joined ClickOrlando.com in March 2021. She graduated from UCF and returned to Central Florida after working in Colorado.