SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. — Fifty people, including two teachers, were arrested in connection with a multi-county child predator operation in central Florida.
The investigation began on the Internet with postings on message boards and in chat sites. Investigators said the men exchanged photos and even had lengthy conversations with what they thought were children, and in some cases, the parents of those children.
Investigators said each suspect then traveled to Seminole County, thinking they were going to be having sex with children.
A young woman met every suspect at the door of the meet-up home, and hidden deputies arrested them as they entered.
Now, each suspect now faces felony charges.
Officials said among those arrested in the sting were tourists, college students, businessmen and several school employees.
Suspect Duncan St. Gelais, 25, is an English teacher at New Smyrna Beach High School, while Jorge Ferreira, 43, works at Ocoee Middle School.
Officials in Ocoee said Ferreira didn’t show up for work on Monday, and Orange County said it is still waiting for him to self-report the arrest.
Officials said Ferreira will not be allowed back on school grounds but will be placed on paid leave until the board acts.
The suspects range in age from 19 to 60, authorities said.
Law enforcement with every central Florida county was involved in the operation, as well as many police departments and the FBI.
Investigators said many of the men went as far as to make phone calls and exchange photos, trying to determine if it was a sting operation.
"Most of the men that traveled all asked us if we were law enforcement officers," said Maj. Dennis Lemma of the Seminole County Sheriff's Office. "They all suspected that this might be a sting. They feared apprehension but came anyway."
Investigators said specialists in computer forensics are going through each suspect's computer looking for evidence of past crimes or other possible victim.
Only one of the 50 men arrested had a prior conviction for sex crimes and was a registered sex offender.
All of the cases will now head to the state attorney's office.
The sting was named Operation Cardea, which authorities said was named after the Roman goddess Cardea, who serves as protector of the home.
Suspect listing below: