Operation e-Guardian nabs 15 child predators in 5 counties - WFLA News Channel 8

Operation e-Guardian nabs 15 child predators in 5 counties

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Suspects arrested during the operation Suspects arrested during the operation
Men arrested during the sting Men arrested during the sting
HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

Fifteen men throughout the Tampa Bay area were arrested for trying to have sex with children.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement just wrapped up a five day sting called 'Operation e-Guardian'.

Agents combed social networking sites, chat rooms, even dating websites, where they posed as teenage boys and girls.

The fifteen men came from five counties- Pasco, Pinellas, Hillsborough, Polk and Sarasota counties.

Agents set up shop in a home at a residential neighborhood.

Over the course of the sting, the fifteen men came to the home looking for sex.

But when the door opened, instead the suspects found armed law enforcement agencies who then handcuffed them and questioned them.

FDLE Special Agent in Charge Rick Ramirez said, "Many brought sex toys and condoms with them."

Officials say the men have no prior sex charges.

Agents say during the operation they even spoke online to predators from Fort Myers and Orlando.

FDLE Special Agent Supervisor Chuck McMullen said, "There was a lot of people we talked to online that didn't travel to the house or the other location, and we're gonna do our part in the investigative efforts to find those people and also arrest them as well."

This was the first sting of its kind for FDLE. The agency typically helps local agencies in these operations, but this is the first time FDLE has started a statewide effort on its own.

McMullen said, "We're saving potentially my own child or potentially someone else's children being

The fifteen men face charges of online solicitation of a minor for sex, and traveling to meet a minor for sex.

If convicted, they each face up to 15 years in prison.

Agent McMullen said, "The reality is these people go online and they find real children all the time. and its not a victimless crime."

This problem is very real in our community, and there are ways you can prevent it- be sure to monitor what your children do online.

Also, keep an eye out for suspicious activity in your neighborhood. If you see something strange, especially if it involves children- call the authorities.

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