Statewide task force arrests 132 in child cybersex sting

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CENTRAL FLORIDA —

A statewide task force announced the results of a four-month-long child cybersex sting that included 132 arrests and about 200 charges.

Investigators said the suspects were trolling the Internet hoping to meet up with children for sex.

"As long as you have the Internet, you have these kids communicating. You have people who are willing to prey on them," said Pinellas County Sheriff Bob Gualtieri.

The results of the investigation were announced Tuesday morning in Polk County. The Florida Sheriff's Association said in 2009 they would make protecting children against sex crimes a priority, and Tuesday the association showed off some of its most recent catches.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says he wants to keep showing just how many people they arrest, not as a warning to potential criminals, but to parents.

 "You need to be all up in your child's business," Judd said.

Nine law enforcement agencies helped coordinate several undercover stings throughout the state from March through June.

Polk County detectives said they arrested a Disney worker, who allegedly told authorities he fantasized about having sex with a 14-year-old boy and that it was not the first time he had traveled to have sex with an underage boy.

For the stings, undercover agents would go online and pose as children in chatrooms and other social media platforms to see who would try to solicit them for sex and meet up with them. That's when detectives would move in and arrest them.

Detectives said criminals are getting more creative, so their agencies have to get more proactive.

 "The difference between in the state of Florida and most states is we dig them out and put them in jail before they can attack our children in the state," Judd said.

In March, the Seminole County Sheriff's Office arrested 26 people, which was the most in any of the participating counties. Volusia County arrested 14 and Polk County arrested 13 people during the four months.

The Polk County Sheriff's Office said it will still make the arrests when not doing the big operations because deputies are looking for them every day.