25 men netted in Sheriff's Office human trafficking sting
SARASOTA- A Suncoast law enforcement operation snares 25 men traveling to Sarasota hoping to have sex with minors. The men thought they were communicating with a 14-year-old girl online, turns out it was undercover Sarasota County Sheriff’s Deputies.
“They squeal like pigs when the Deputies grab them and bring them inside the house,” Sheriff Knight said. “If you want to get inside the house come on in, and we’re inviting them, punch that doorbell, tap that door and you belong to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office.”
The men arrested include a Naval Chief Petty Officer, an uber driver, a registered sex offender, and undocumented immigrants. Some of the men brought drugs, guns, explicit photos and condoms with them.
“At some point this is going to become a catastrophe,” Knight said. “It’s going to happen, and probably already happened. These individuals as you already know, if this happens to a 14-year-old it’s going to wreck their life.”
Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight says they’ve found 15 apps these men use in order to solicit children.
“This is almost like a drug addiction,” Knight said. “We’re going to arrest them but it’s not going to go away, the best way for this to be cured is for the parents to make sure that these apps aren’t there.”
Knight says some apps are disguised to look like calculators, so parents should open these apps and know how they’re used.
“The most important person here to protect children is the parents and guardians to know what’s on there and inspect the phone so they don’t become victimized,” Knight said. “By these types of people that we are arresting.”
Homeland Security also offered tips on how parents can stay safe online.
“One of the things you can do is don’t let your child have access to purchase apps on their phone and on their ipads and on the computers.” Homeland Security Investigations Resident Agent in Charge in Sarasota Nathan Emery said.
Knight says the most important thing is that parents and guardians remain engaged.
“I don’t see this stopping until prevention happens,” Knight said. “And parents know what’s on their children’s phone.”