Child Sex Solicitation Sting - Operation SheepdogST. AUGUSTINE, Fla. -- St. Johns County deputies have arrested 17 men accused of using the Internet to sexually exploit children.
Sheriff David Shoar and State Attorney R.J. Larizza, at a news conference Wednesday, said the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force tracked down the suspects on Internet chat rooms that children frequently use -- an investigation called "Operation Sheepdog."
Detectives posed as juveniles or parents in the chat rooms to get the men to meet with them, deputies said. All of the men were from areas outside St. Johns County. Ten were from Jacksonville, and two were from Georgia. The others came from Clay, Nassau, Volusia, Alachua and Osceola counties, investigators said.
Deputies said the suspects went to a home setup in St. Johns County, and investigators have surveillance video of the men walking into the home.
Investigators said the sting was a five-day operation. They said the men made plans to go to the house between April 27 and Sunday to solicit children ages 8-15.
The men arrested range in age from 20-55. Among their occupations, one was a middle school teacher in Nassau County, two were in the military, one was a former Department of Corrections employee, one was an optician, one was a civil engineer, one was a janitor, one was a bank teller, and one was a chef.
They are facing 60 felony charges and three misdemeanor charges.
Deputies said most of the men brought condoms and some brought lubrication to the home. They were arrested at the front door.
None of the men were registered sex offenders or predators. One of the suspects brought three cucumbers and others brought candy after being requested. Detectives said they seized several vehicles, a computer and cell phones.
Those arrested were: Robert Jones, 40, Melvin Crosby, 27, Christopher Smith, 29, Christopher Logue, 26, Brandon Hardy, 20, Francisco Nunez, 27, Jimmy Santiago Jr., 28, Donald Stephens, 55, Adam Morris, 22, Joshua Johnson, 29, Murtaza Panjwani, 27, Kenan Dumanjic, 24, Alvin Smith, 25, Efrain Perez-Casanova, 23, Sui Law, 20, Benjamin Harrison, 39, and Ronald Thompson, 47.
Hardy and Johnson have been released from jail after posting $50,000 bail.
Johnson is a teacher at Hilliard Middle-Senior High School, according to the Nassau County School District. He has been suspended with pay pending the next board meeting, when he could be suspended without pay, school officials said. Johnson, who's been with the district since 2003, has not returned to the school since his arrest.
St. Johns County investigators said that after homicides, online child exploitation is their No. 1 issue.
Although less than one half of one percent of males are sexual predators on children, that stat equals 750,000 in the U.S. alone!
And as demonstrated by even this small sample, they don't reside in any specific category or neighborhood.
Yet still persons in authority in many private and government establishments continue to cover up and/or defend "inappropriate" actions or remarks they observe in their work associates, employees, friends and relatives.