WINTER HAVEN, Fla. (WFLA) — A Winter Haven man is facing several charges after deputies say he pretended to be a law enforcement officer, pulled a knife and sexually battered someone he met on a dating website.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 37-year-old Thomas Lee Simmons on Tuesday. He was charged with armed sexual battery, armed robbery, grand theft, dealing in stolen property and false information to a law enforcement officer.
His arrest stemmed from an incident that happened at the Stay Plus Inn in Haines City. According to the sheriff’s office, the victim said he had been speaking with Simmons on a dating website and arranged to meet him at the hotel.
When Simmons came into the room, deputies said he pulled out a fixed blade knife from a sheath attached to his belt and told the victim to strip naked. According to an arrest affidavit, Simmons told the victim he was with the narcotics unit and had other officers outside the room. He also pretended to talk to others on a radio while he was in the room, deputies said.
The sheriff’s office said Simmons then took his own clothes off and sexually battered the victim. He then told the victim he had “agents” going to the victim’s sister’s house to “get her as well,” a news release from the sheriff’s office said.
Simmons is then accused of robbing the victim of his driver’s license, passport, an iPhone, an Apple Watch, Airpods and three pairs of Air Jordan shoes.
The sheriff’s office said Simmons was eventually found at his girlfriend’s Winter Haven home. While searching the home and Simmons’ truck, detectives said they found the items that were taken from the victim as well as a knife matching a description given by the victim.
According to the sheriff’s office, Simmons initially gave a fake name during an interview with detectives but later provided his true identity. Detectives said he admitted to meeting someone for sex in Haines City and admitted to taking the victim’s items without permission.
Simmons is being held in the Polk County Jail on no bond until a first appearance hearing scheduled for Wednesday afternoon. According to the sheriff’s office, he has a criminal history that includes charges of petit theft and possession of drug paraphernalia in Florida as well as an assault charge in North Carolina.
“This was the act of a violent criminal with a criminal history, and the outcome could have been much worse,” Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement.
In his statement, Sheriff Judd urged everyone who uses online dating services to be cautious.
“Meet with strangers in a public place, like a restaurant, and never give out your personal information like your home address until you at least get to know that person better,” he said. “Another safeguard is to tell a trusted loved one where you are going and set up a time to check in with that person, just in case.”
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