An undercover online child sex sting in Putnam County led to the arrest of 14 men.
On Wednesday, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office announced the completion of “Operation Be Mine.”
The investigation, which began in early February, targeted adults who preyed on children using social media and other forms of online communication.
Sheriff Gator DeLoach says that type of criminal behavior will not be tolerated.
“I hope this operation puts Putnam County on the map as a place where out-of-town predators are not welcome," said DeLoach.
He laughed when asked about the reaction from the suspects who were met by SWAT when they thought they were meeting a child for sex. He said he looks forward to the day when they can release the video. @ActionNewsJax— Christy Turner (@ChristyANJax) March 7, 2018
During the operation, the men either traveled with intent to have sex with a minor or solicited a minor over the internet for sexual purposes.
The suspects range in age from 18 to 63. Of those arrested, three are local, including a high school student in Putnam County.
The Sheriff’s Office said some men drove as far as two hours away to meet a child.
Investigators said the suspects traveled to a residence in Putnam County hoping to have sex with a child between the ages of 11 and 14.
Instead, they were greeted by members of the SWAT Team.
A college student from Gainesville and a member of the Florida Army National Guard were among those nabbed during the sting.
A current inmate serving a life sentence was also charged with sending explicit photographs to a child using a cellphone he smuggled into prison.
Gary Simo is a current inmate serving a life sentence. Investigators said the 45-year-old sent pornography to a minor from a cell phone smuggled into prison. ActionNewsJax pic.twitter.com/QUyeqxpyem— Christy Turner (@ChristyANJax) March 7, 2018
Twelve agencies assisted in the investigation, including the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and United States Department of Homeland Security.
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