LAKELAND – A Lakeland man has been arrested, and is now being held without bond, for using a van filled with video games as what Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called a “predator’s paradise” that he used to lure children into.
On Tuesday, April 3, Polk County Sheriff’s Special Victims detectives arrested Leonard Richard Filipkowski, 44, of 1450 Royal Forest Lane in Lakeland, and charged him with nine counts of lewd and lascivious molestation on a victim under 16, and 11 counts of lewd and lascivious exhibition in the presence of a child.
Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, said those are the charges filed “thus far,” and there could be more. The sheriff’s office is asking local parents to talk to their children, and report it to detectives if any of them had contact with Filipkowski.
“The investigation is ongoing,” Eleazer noted in her report on the case. “If you or someone you know has been victimized by Leonard Filipkowski, the owner of the ‘Games 2 U’ mobile video game van, please contact the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Special Victims Unit at 863-298-6379.”
Judd said this was an appalling case of sexual exploitation of minors.
“This suspect, Leonard Filipkowski, is our worst nightmare,” Judd said. “He has no criminal record, no history of abusing children, and a business that caters to children. His van is a predator’s paradise.”
The investigation started when the Polk County Sheriff’s Office got a report from a Social Service Office in another state, which was dealing with the sexual abuse case of a boy who had lived in Lakeland until he was 13.
As a result of the sexual abuse he endured in Polk County’s largest city, the boy started going to counseling sessions after moving away from Florida. The victim identified the man who abused him as Leonard Filipkowski, and the Social Service Office forwarded that information to Polk County detectives, who began investigating the Lakeland man.
What they discovered is Filipkowski owns a franchised mobile van that he calls “Games 2 U,” which is equipped with flat screen televisions and video games. With photos of children prominently displayed on the side of the van, it’s intended to be a service that caters to minors, Eleazer said.
“The Games 2 U van travels throughout Central Florida, booking events such as birthday parties, children’s events, and church and school functions,” Eleazer noted.
But using the van as a business was only part of Filipkowski’s aim, she noted. Under questioning from detectives, Filipkowski admitted to performing sex acts in the van on one victim, who was 13 years old at the time, and to performing sex acts in his home on another victim, who was either 13 or 14 years old at the time.
“After reading him his Miranda rights, Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives interviewed Filipkowski in reference to this victim, and during the interview, he admitted not only to giving alcohol to and then molesting the 13-year-old boy in question in his Games 2 U van, but also admitted to molesting another boy, who was 13 or 14 years old at the time and in the eighth grade,” Eleazer noted. “According to Filipkowski, the second victim’s abuse occurred approximately three years ago, in Filipkowski’s home. The boy had occasionally worked for Filipkowski in the Games 2 U van.”
Detectives then interviewed both victims, and they provided details of their sexual abuse which Eleazer said corroborated Filipkowski’s versions of what had happened between them.
Detectives placed Filipkowski under arrest on the molestation charges. He’ll remain in the Polk County Jail on no bond until a first court appearance hearing today.
Judd said if there are more victims out there who were abused in the Games 2 U van, he hopes they come forward to press charges.
“We are asking parents to talk to their children and let us know as soon as possible if there are any more children out there who have been victimized by this predator,” the sheriff said.