Internet predator lures 14-year-old boy to Tampa - WFLA News Channel 8

Internet predator lures 14-year-old boy to Tampa

Posted: Updated:
TAMPA, FL (WFLA) -

(KNSD) A 14-year-old Escondido boy was safe and in protective custody in Florida Tuesday after a 36-year-old man he first met online enticed him to fly east with him, police said.

Tampa police and federal agents surprised the teen and the adult at the airport in Tampa on Monday when the pair got off a flight from Long Beach, Escondido police Lt. Neal Griffin said.  The man, Tony E. McLeod of Tampa, was arrested.

The teen was "victimized by a very sophisticated predator. He reached out across the country through the Internet and found a victim to entice and exploit to the point that somehow he was able to get the young boy on a plane with him," Griffin said.

The boy's parents first suspected someone was preying on their son after finding sexually explicit photos and messages on the teen's phone in May, Griffin said.

McLeod had contacted the boy through PlayStation online video games, he said.  After establishing a relationship with the teen, McLeod started sending explicit messages to the teen's cell phone, Griffin said.

The boy's parents found the messages and called McLeod, warning him to stay away from their son. They also contacted Escondido police.

But after hearing from the teen's parents, McLeod changed his phone number and began lying low, making it difficult for Escondido police investigators to find him, Griffin said.

Police were investigating the matter when the boy failed to come home from school Monday afternoon.

The family reported the boy missing and police immediately suspected that McLeod had enticed the boy to join him, Griffin said.

He said investigators treated the new development as an emergency and were able to get quickly the legal permission they needed to track McLeod's new cell phone.

Police pinged the phone and tracked it to Long Beach. Investigators learned there was a nonstop flight to Tampa and that McLeod was on board.

Tampa police and U.S. Marshals met the plane when it arrived in Florida, Griffin said.

Stay with WFLA.com for more on this developing story.

Follow us on Twitter:  @wflatampa

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