Orange County Sheriff’s Office Nets 31 in Online Child Predator Sting Operation
Two weeks ago, I wrote about a “sting” in Volusia County that caught 23 defendants who solicited sex with a minor through the Internet. A similar operation in Orlando was announced yesterday, resulting in the arrests of 31 defendants. According to the Orlando Sentinel, Orange County sheriff’s deputies placed ads online advertising “fun” with minors. They then impersonated the minors online, luring the defendants to a home in the county, where the defendants were promptly arrested. Named Operation Spiderweb 2, the effort was part of a series of such stings by local police agencies participating in Florida’s Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, including the Volusia County operation. The first Operation Spiderweb took place at about the same time last year, also in Orange County.
According to deputies, all of the 31 people arrested are men, and most live in Central Florida. They were found when they answered advertisements and talked to deputies posing as minors who solicited sex with the defendants. One defendant was Aremio Solis, who answered an advertisement saying a 13-year-old girl was “liberated and interested in learning more.” The advertisement was purportedly placed by the girl’s stepfather, and said he was “an open naturalist looking for outside fun.” Like other defendants, Solis contacted the sheriff’s deputies via email; he followed up via text message, then traveled to the house in late October. There, he was immediately arrested. According to the newspaper, Solis told the deputies that he had a problem and that he’d seen “weird things” when he served in Iraq.
Solis also told deputies that he felt his life was over. In my experience defending clients against sex crimes charges, a serious enough charge could prove him partially right by putting him in prison for a long time. Soliciting sex from a minor online is a felony, as is traveling to meet a minor for sex. Depending on the facts of each case, defendants may face additional penalties for things like sending pornography to someone they believed was a minor, unlawful use of a two-way device, and more. Because this was an undercover operation whose goal was to catch and prosecute people, the deputies will certainly have kept all of the messages between them and the defendants, to be used as evidence of their intent to have sex with minors. And despite what some defendants may think, courts have ruled that it is not entrapment for officers to solicit others to commit a crime and then prosecute them.
That’s why, if you have been accused of soliciting a minor online, or any similar online sex crime, it’s absolutely vital to get the help of an experienced attorney. Though these prosecutions are all in Florida, this kind of crime also ends up in federal court, and the penalties for federal sex crimes involving children are at least as onerous as Florida’s. Depending on the circumstances, defendants may face years or even decades in prison. By hiring an attorney as early as possible in the process, defendants can ensure that their rights are protected from the beginning of the case. This can be absolutely vital, because many defendants don’t realize they have the right to stay silent during an initial police interrogation. Seltzer Law, P.A., has represented several defendants caught in this type of sting, and we strongly recommend that defendants talk to us or another law firm as soon as they know they are under suspicion.
If you are facing serious criminal charges related to online sex crimes or other crimes involving technology and the Internet, don’t wait to call Seltzer Law for a free, confidential consultation. You can reach us through our website or call 1-888-THE-DEFENSE, 24 hours a day and seven days a week.
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