|October 21, 2013
Media Contact: Jenn Meale or Gretl Plessinger
Phone: (850) 245-0150
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TAMPA, Fla. - The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, along with Department of Homeland Security, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, Office of Statewide Prosecution and the State Attorney’s Office, 13th Judicial Circuit, arrested 15 child sex predators as part of a five-day investigation known as Operation e-Guardian.
Investigators focused on child predators in unincorporated Hillsborough County. Using social media sites and online chat rooms, undercover agents communicated with alleged predators. In each case, the suspects believed they were communicating with a child and drove to a specific location to have sex with what they thought was an underage male or female.
Attorney General Pam Bondi said, "Sadly, sexual predators will use any means available to them, including the Internet, to lure children in order to exploit them. This operation was a great multi-agency collaboration that has brought down 15 child predators. My office has developed an online safety tip sheet for parents and kids, and I encourage Floridians to visit MyFloridaLegal.com and follow the human trafficking pages to download this information."
FDLE Commissioner Gerald Bailey said, “Operation e-Guardian is prime example of the force-multiplier of law enforcement partnerships. All involved are to be commended.”
Operation e-Guardian agents identified child sex predators in chat rooms, utilizing instant messaging, texting, dating sites, social networks and even online classified ads. Special agents arrested 15 suspects from five Florida Counties, Polk, Hillsborough, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota Counties.
"Operation e-Guardian is the first operation of its kind headed by FDLE," said Tampa Bay Regional Operations Center Special Agent in Charge Rick Ramirez. "Working with our law enforcement partners, we maximized our resources stopping these predators from preying on our children."
“It is critical that we conduct operations such as Operation e-Guardian as part of a multi-faceted approach to ensure the children in our community are protected from these individuals who are out to sexually exploit minors. A strong message needs to be sent to these offenders that this behavior will not be tolerated and if they commit acts such as this, they will be arrested and placed in jail,” said Hillsborough County Sheriff David Gee.
Please visit the Secure Florida website to review tips for keeping your children safe online at: http://secureflorida.org/2011/family/best_practices_for_parents/