42 arrested in Polk Co. after undercover child porn, sex offender investigation

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WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) – Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd will speak on Wednesday about an extensive, undercover investigation focusing on those who prey on children.

The investigation led to the arrest of 42 people.

Detectives served search warrants and arrested 18 suspects who engaged in the promotion, possession, and distribution of child pornography.  Officials said one of the suspects is a woman.

“What these folks are is deviants. In their screwed up minds this is normal conduct.  In their minds, they think it’s good for them. We also think prison is good for them,” Sheriff Grady Judd said. “Some like girls, some like boys, some like infants, some like 10 year olds. We’re not talking about someone took a photo of their infant. We’re talking about sexual deviant conduct here.”

A warrant was issued for a suspect also wanted for possession of child pornography, Matthew Sutton. Sutton’s mother was arrested on non-child sex-related charges, for not cooperating with the investigation.

Detectives conducted compliance checks on sex offenders, predators, and probationers whose violations stemmed from sex offenses, resulting in the arrest of 21 suspects who failed to register.

“Our children are this community’s most precious resource. We must do everything we can to protect them,” said Judd. ”During operations such as this one, we proactively look for suspects who prey upon children, either through the collection and distribution of child pornography or through their non-compliance with [a] sexual predator and offender registration rules, including their evasive efforts to gain access to children through the Internet and social media.”

Three others were arrested during the operation, but not for child sex crimes.

Of the 21 sexual offenders and predators arrested, five were designated as predators and 16 as offenders.

A sexual offender is a person who has been convicted of a qualifying sexual offense in Florida or another jurisdiction.  A sexual predator is a person who has been convicted of sexually violent offenses and has a court written order designating the person as a sexual predator or an individual who is civilly committed under the state Jimmy Ryce Sexually Violent Predator Act and has a written court order designation.

One of the suspects arrested on 38 child pornography charges, Erik Gordon, has a bachelor’s degree and master’s degree with a focus on child counseling. He is a child counselor at Peace River in Lakeland.

“You can’t make this stuff up,” Judd said they are looking into if any children were affected. “You have a guy who is interested in children, and he’s counseling children, that’s easy access.”


Watch Polk Sheriff Grady Judd’s full press conference 

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