MARION COUNTY, Fla. — On Tuesday, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced the results of a five-day online sting operation targeting predators seeking sex with children.
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Operation “M.A.P. MIRAGE” was carried out with assistance from multiple agencies with law enforcement officers going undercover and exchanging messages with men who engaged in sexually explicit conversations online. According to the sheriff’s office, the men would describe the acts they hoped to perform with children.
In all, deputies say 14 men actually traveled to locations in Marion County expecting to meet with children as young as 14 years of age for sex. Instead, they were met by law enforcement officers and arrested.
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According to the sheriff’s office, nine other men who didn’t make the trip still broke the law by communicating online in an attempt to seek sex with a child or by sending sexually explicit photographs to undercover agents they believed to be children. Six of the nine have been arrested and warrants were issued for the remaining three suspects.
“I am disgusted and dismayed that there are people in this world who seek to harm innocent children,” Sheriff Billy Woods said in a statement. “I will never stop devoting every resource I have at my disposal to bring to justice anyone trying to harm a child in my county.”
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The North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Homeland Security, and multiple other local law enforcement agencies all assisted with the operation.
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