A sting operation by Florida police has led to the arrest of 22 men who sought children online for sex, officials said Wednesday.
Dubbed operation “Be Mine,” detectives occupied a vacant house in the Orlando area and posed as children or the parents of children in online chat rooms.
When suspects solicited the officers, arrangements were made to meet at the home for sex acts, police said.
As the suspects arrived at the Clermont home, they were taken into custody, a news release from the Lake County, Fla., sheriff’s office said.
Three of the men arrested — Patrick Holgerson, 32, Joel Torres, 32, and Robert Kingsolver, 49, — were identified as Walt Disney World employees by police.
Marilyn Waters, a Disney spokeswoman, told NBC News Wednesday night that all of the men have been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the charges.
Torres allegedly brought condoms with him to the home where he thought he would have sex with a 14-year-old, police said.
Alexander Vorobets, a 27-year-old employee of Rachel Strip Club in Orlando, brought a Happy Meal and condoms to meet a child of 13, according to the sheriff’s office.
Another suspect, Belal Shofique, 33, was identified by police as an Orange County paramedic.
Other suspects brought candy, necklaces and marijuana, police said.
Also arrested was 47-year-old David Griffith of Minneola, Fla., who told investigators he had recently made plans to have sex with a 7-year-old in another county, police said.
Officers tracked down emails between Griffith and the child's mother. After an investigation, the child was found. It was later learned the mother of the 7-year-old had sexually abused her, according to police. That case was still being investigated.
“It is somewhat discouraging, but I will tell you as long as those bad guys are out there trying to target our children here in this county we will continue to do these operations,” Lake County Sheriff Gary Borders told NBC station WESH in Orlando.
First published February 12 2014, 5:13 PM