While the residents of Tampa and the surrounding areas enjoyed Gasparilla, 35 other men looked for enjoyment somewhere else. Websites such as teenchat.com, boyahoy.com, and motherless.com were some of websites these men were using to look for young girls. These men ranged in age from 19 to 65 and were soon apprehended by law enforcement. How did law enforcement know what they were up to in their private time? Because law enforcement was involved with an undercover sex sting, which put them undercover in these websites looking for adults trying to have sex with children.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearwater Police Office teamed up in an operation called “Operation Home Alone” this past weekend. The operation was targeted at people who use a computer or other electronic device to try to arrange to have sex with children. The operation began at 2p.m. on Thursday January 23 and ended Monday January 27 at 2a.m.
This investigation involved approximately 12 detectives that were assigned to different “chat lines.” Each detective would sign online and pretend to be either a child, or the parent of a child, that was willing to offer his or her child for sex. Within five minutes of the detectives logging into these chat lines they would have from 5 to 8 people already signed on, waiting to chat with them. One detective, who was acting as a mother willing to give away her daughter for sex, reported that within five minutes of signing on she had 40 people waiting to talk to her.
The undercover detectives would talk to the suspects and tell them where to meet them. The suspects would then travel from different locations to meet the “children” they had met online. Some of the children were portrayed to be as young as 11 years old. When the men arrived at the location, they were not met with young children. Instead, these men were arrested immediately. At one time over the span of four days, the investigation had to be put on hold because they ran out of officers to perform the arrests of these men.
The charges faced by those involved in this operation included traveling to meet a minor, attempted lewd and lascivious behavior, and attempted battery on law enforcement officer. The investigation led to the arrest of 35 men from various counties. The men ranged in age from 19 years old to 65 years old. Specifically, 23 men from Pinellas County; 7 men from Hillsborough County; 2 men from Pasco County; 2 men from Manatee County; and one man drove all the way from Miami to meet an alleged 15-year-old girl.
The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office and the Clearwater Police Office made a statement Monday January 27, 2014 at 3:00p.m., where they stated they would not give up until all men involved with child-related crimes were caught.