20 men arrested in Marion County, accused of seeking sex with children

Detectives worked undercover, chatted online with over 100 people

Marion County deputies announce arrests in child sex predator operation (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

MARION COUNTY, Fla. – Twenty men seeking sex with children were arrested in Marion County during a five-day undercover child sex predator operation, according to sheriff’s officials.

Lt. Paul Bloom with the Marion County Sheriff’s Office said on Tuesday that detectives worked undercover and chatted online with over 100 men seeking sex from children.

The suspects ranged in ages from 22 to 79 years old.

“The ugly truth is that this is just a tip of the iceberg. And we know that this operation we caught a small portion of these evil predators,” Bloom said.


Marion County arrests in undercover child sex predator operation (Copyright 2023 by WKMG ClickOrlando - All rights reserved.)

One of the suspects, Robert Lewis, spoke with four different detectives believing each of them were children during online chats, according to Bloom.

“Parents pay attention. You raise your children and do all you can to keep them safe. You work hard. You make sure they wear their seat belts. They eat healthy food they study for school tests. Try to avoid danger. You can’t let up just because they’re teenagers. You have to be their protector,” Bloom said.

Of the 20 men arrested, Bloom said 14 of them traveled to meet with a child for sex.

Arrest warrants have been issued for three men who were sending sexually explicit photos, deputies said.

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About the Author:

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.