WINTER HAVEN – Nearly 40 men have been arrested and are now in the Polk County Jail, having been charged with traveling to the county to meet a minor for sex.
It was all part of what the Polk County Sheriff’s Office dubbed “Operation Cyber Child,” an undercover operation that the sheriff’s office launched as the official Central Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force Coordinator.
It represented a 10-day long operation, involving detectives and agents from 15 other agencies, including the state Attorney General’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
From Friday, June 1 through Sunday, June 10, a total of 38 adult men got arrested and were charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex and other crimes during Operation Cyber Child.
It was the 9th undercover sex sting operation conducted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
During the operation, undercover detectives posted fake ads or profiles on various websites, such as Craigslist, pretending to be minors or the custodians of children.
And they got responses – plenty of them.
“Despite the repeated warnings and media coverage of past operations, numerous men responded to the ads and then proceeded to chat online, email, text, and talk on the phone with the undercover detectives who posed as children online,” noted Carrie Eleazer, public information officer for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, in her report on the arrests.
The men who got arrested, she said, provided the sheriff’s office with plenty of incriminating evidence, electronically.
“The suspects solicited for sex acts, sent pornographic pictures and live web-cam images of themselves, and asked for nude photos of the children to be sent to them,” she noted. “Several of the men drove to the house to follow through with the promises made online to engage in sexual activity with the juveniles. “
The sheriff’s office said several of the arrests are particularly significant, including that of 43-year-old Matthew Chillcott, a 5th grade teacher at Lawton Chiles Elementary School in Orlando. Detectives said he had been chatting online with an undercover Casselberry Police detective since January 2012.
“During this operation, he continued to chat with the detective, who was posing as a 14-year-old girl, and agreed to travel to the undercover location to have sex with the girl,” Eleazer noted. “In addition to being a teacher, he also told detectives he is a youth soccer coach.”
A registered sex offender, 31-year-old Wilson Silva of Brooksville got arrested in this undercover sting as well. He had been registered since 2001 out of Hernando County.
“Silva responded to a fictitious ad posted on Craigslist by an undercover Mount Dora police detective posing as the stepmother of a 14-year-old girl,” Eleazer noted. “He offered to come to the undercover location to teach the girl how to have fun with sex.”
Other agencies that participated in the sting were the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the Police Departments in Casselberry, Mount Dora, North Port, Ocoee, and St. Petersburg, and the sheriff’s offices in Hardee, Lake, Manatee, Orange, Osceola and Sarasota counties.
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