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18 arrested in undercover child sex sting | News

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18 arrested in undercover child sex sting
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Inverness, Florida -- Eighteen men -- including a 17-year-old -- have been arrested as part of an undercover child sex sting.

The Citrus County Sheriff's Office says "Operation Cyber Guardian" used the Internet to locate and identify people using it to sexually exploit children.

Mugs Gallery: Citrus County child sex sting

Most of the suspects were either unemployed or self-employed. Investigators say one even drove a huge box truck to an Inverness restaurant, where he arranged to meet with what he thought was the mother of an underage girl.

The plan was to return to the woman's house to have sex with the woman and her daughter.  Collectively, the suspects traveled from as far away as Jacksonville. 

The operation was conducted between July 11 and July 17.  Undercover detectives took part in chat sessions during the earlier part of the week. The detectives posed either as underage males or females, or parents and/or siblings of minors actively looking for sexual instruction for the youngsters.

Personal ads also were posted on several e-commerce websites.  These allegedly featured a young mother seeking subjects to teach her teen how to please a man and share in intimate family fun.  Several Internet chat sites frequented by children were utilized as well.  

Arrests began on Wednesday, with the undercover chatters giving the suspects driving directions to an Inverness residence, where they were to meet.

Four arrests were made each day from Wednesday through Saturday, and two on Sunday.  Twelve vehicles were seized for forfeiture.  Also seized were 19 cell phones, 14 computers and eight GPS units. 

Ten of the 18 men arrested brought condoms to the rendezvous site in anticipation of sexual activity with a minor.  

Individually, the suspects arrived at the undercover house with porn movies, sex toys, a camera, Viagra, a 12-pack of beer and a cherry Slushy (the suspect thought he was having sex with an 8-year-old female and her mother), and a Happy Meal for the 9-year-old girl he planned to engage in sexual activity with. 

Detectives say the suspects each face multiple violations of the state's Computer Pornography and Child Exploitation Prevention Act, ranging from traveling to meet a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct with a child, to transmitting material harmful to minors to a minor by electronic device or equipment.

Citrus Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said a potential of at least 18 children were saved from being victimized as a result of Operation Cyber Guardian.

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