MARION COUNTY, FL – The Marion County Sheriff’s Office (MCSO), with assistance from local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies, recently concluded a sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 22 men.
Law enforcement officers went undercover and exchanged messages with 19 men who ultimately traveled to locations in Marion County with the expectation that they were meeting a child between the ages of 12 and 16 for sexual activity. During the online exchanges, these men engaged in sexually explicit conversations, graphically describing the sexual acts they hoped to perform with the child. When these men arrived at their meeting place, they were met by law enforcement officers, who placed them under arrest. Eight additional men, who did not travel to meet a child, had arrest warrants issued for sending sexually explicit pictures to individuals they believed were minors. Of these, three have been arrested and five are actively being sought.
“A child’s innocence is something we should all strive to protect.” said Sheriff Billy Woods. “I will continue to use all of my resources to hunt down these predators so they may never hurt a child.”
We would like to acknowledge and give our sincerest gratitude to the following agencies for their assistance during this operation: ICAC North Florida Task Force, U.S. Marshals Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Belleview Police Department, Dunnellon Police Department, Ocala Police Department, and Gainesville Police Department. We also would like to express our gratitude to the following community partners for their support during this operation: Publix, Olive Garden, Sonny’s BBQ, Pasta Faire, Mojos, Fiery Chef, RP Dental, and Vetted Security Solutions.