Marion County

Operation ‘April Fools’ ends in arrest of 19 men seeking sex with children, deputies say

MARION COUNTY, Fla. — The Marion County Sheriff’s Office has busted nearly two dozen men seeking sex with kids during operation “April Fools.”

Marion County deputies, with assistance from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, conducted an undercover operation that resulted in the arrest of 22 men who thought they were meeting underage children.

>>> STREAM CHANNEL 9 EYEWITNESS NEWS LIVE <<<

Law enforcement officers exchanged messages with 19 men who ultimately traveled to various locations in Marion County thinking they were meeting a child between the ages of 12 and 16 for sexual activity.

According to deputies, during the exchange, these men engaged in sexually explicit conversations with people they thought were underage children.

When the men arrived at these locations, they were met by deputies who arrested them.

“A child’s innocence is something we should all strive to protect,” said Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods. “I will continue to use all of my resources to hunt down these predators so they may never hurt a child.”

Read: Woman killed in hit-and-run crash involving box truck in Orange County

According to a news release, eight additional men, who did not travel to meet a child, had arrest warrants issued for sending sexually explicit pictures to individuals whom they believed were minors.

Read: ‘Grab anything light and get out of here’: Residents evacuated from condemned Miami condo

Out of those men, three have been arrested and five are actively being sought.

Read: ‘Completely preventable’: Attorney visits Orlando thrill ride where teen fell to his death

Click here to download the free WFTV news and weather apps, click here to download the WFTV Now app for your smart TV and click here to stream Channel 9 Eyewitness News live.

Latest Trending