The Lee County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 18 suspect caught up in a five-day multi-agency operation designed to stop child predators online on Monday.
During a press conference, Undersheriff Carmine Marceno said that investigators spent hundreds of hours posing as minors, receiving more than 60 communications from individuals attempting to turn the conversation towards sex, often requesting lewd photos or sending pornographic material. Some of those communications even came from the same suspect attempting to chat with two minors at the same time, not realizing they were investigators.
“The focus of the investigation was to target individuals who utilize the internet and social media platforms to prey on our children,” Marceno said.
Three of the individuals caught in Operation Picket Fences were registered sex offenders, with one already having an arrest for seducing a child over the internet and child pornography. One suspect, Paul Newport, had been arrested in a previous sting and had his yellow Corvette seized as a result. After repurchasing the car, he was once again caught in with the yellow Corvette in operation Picket Fences.
Marceno said that more than 100 people have been arrested by the LCSO in similar operations since 2012
“I want to be very loud and crystal clear in this message,” said Marceno. “We will combat predators who target our children. They will be arrested and they will be put behind bars where they belong.”
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