Chef, office professionals among 10 arrested in Citrus child sex - WFLA News Channel 8

Chef, office professionals among 10 arrested in Citrus child sex sting

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CITRUS COUNTY, FL (WFLA) -

A chef, a former National guardsman, office professionals and maintenance workers are among those accused of traveling to a home in Citrus County to have sex with children.

Undercover Citrus County Sheriff's Office detectives recently arrested ten people during Operation Cyber Guardian.

Detectives used the Internet to locate and identify people who use the web to lurk online, seeking sex with minors and traveling to meet them for the purpose of sexual activity, according to a sheriff's office spokesperson.

Investigators say the suspects traveled to Citrus County from Marion, Lake, Hernando, Clay, Pinellas, and Orange counties. Three suspects are Citrus County residents.

During the sting, which officially started on Tuesday, May 6, and concluded on Sunday, May 11, investigators posed online as juveniles, as well as parents offering their children up for sex. They worked each day at computers set up at an undisclosed house in Citrus County.

Investigators posted ads and chatted on several different social websites and different online chat rooms. They also exchanged text messages and emails with suspects, some of whom sent them explicit photographs.

Arrests began on Wednesday, with undercover chatters giving the suspects driving directions to an undercover residence located in Citrus County where they were to meet.

Two vehicles were seized for forfeiture and the rest were towed. 10 cell phones and 3 personal computers were also seized. Seven of the 10 men arrested brought condoms to the rendezvous site in anticipation of sexual activity with a minor.

Investigators say some other unusual items were also brought to the site including a slushy, pack of M&Ms and Mountain Dew bottles.

Further arrests may occur and search warrants are pending on phones and computers taken into evidence. Forensics analysis will follow.

“During this operation, we were able to target more areas of the internet than we ever have before. This number is a measure of our success with these operations not only in Citrus County, but across the state," said Det. Chris Cornell with the agency’s Internet Crimes Against Children Unit.

The following individuals are facing multiple violations of the state’s Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, ranging from traveling to meet a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a child to transmitting material harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment:

  • Diego Campos – Hernandez, 23, Orlando
  • Donald Feagans, 35, Keystone Heights
  • Jeremy Weber, 28, Hernando
  • Edward Lee Powell, 44, Beverly Hills
  • Marshall Hottinger, 21, Leesburg
  • Mark Joseph Unrein, 61, New Port Richey
  • Joseph William Hicks, 38, Ocala
  • Jaramie Mapes, 26, Crystal River
  • Landon Lansford, 25, Citra
  • Gregory Knapp, 24, Brooksville

“The Sheriff’s Office encourages all parents to monitor their children’s internet activity, including chat logs, history of sites visited, social networking sites, etc.,” said Lt. Kevin Purinton, who supervises the Internet Crimes Against Children Unit and Special Victims Unit.

"Most adults probably aren't aware of the sites kids are using, so law enforcement will continue with proactive efforts to identify these disturbed individuals and protect our children. Parents need to monitor their children’s internet activity including chat logs, history of sites visited, and social networking sites. Pay attention to what your kids are doing online.”

Copyright 2014 WFLA. All rights reserved.

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