It's a topic on which we wish we didn't have to report: grown men looking for sex with young boys and girls.
It's this predatory act that sparked action from the Walton County Sheriff's Office, taking down 10 men in a multi-agency Internet sex sting.
The WCSO dubbed it "Operation Turkey Hunt" and investigators call these men "sick in the head."
They range in age from 21 to 51. Some are jobless, others are active duty military and one is a self proclaimed preacher. Now, all are behind bars.
"In my mind, if we can talk one person off the street who may want to hurt a child, then we've accomplished our goal," said Investigator Matthew Williams.
Each man came to the sting house after a posed Internet conversation with who they believed was either a 12 to 13 year old child or a parent facilitating sex with the child. They were in for a surprise when they rang the door bell, as authorities pounced out the door and arrested them.
"It's hard to actually believe that this goes on out there, but when you see it first hand, I'm glad we got them off the street," added Lt. Adam Falk.
Falk and Williams are some of the brains behind the operation they feel is a long time coming. Still, when it comes to catching a predator, they said it's not an easy task. The bait is cast via sites like ‘Craigslist', waiting for a bite.
"There's no profiling for these individuals...you go online, they communicate, they choose to respond...and they also choose to continue to communicate with a 14, 13, or 12 year old," explained Williams.
42 year old, John Reyes drove all the way from Mobile, Alabama, while 22 year old Nick Walker simply walked a few blocks from his Freeport residence, according to investigators.
They said many came prepared with condoms.
"They're sick in the head, that's all I've got for them," said Williams.
The men were booked into the Walton County Department of Corrections with a million dollar bond, plus no contact with minors and they have to wear an electronic tracking device.
The Sheriff's office is also urging parents to be mindful of your child's Internet habits. This just goes to show how easy it is for predator to reach our children.
The suspects are the following:
The Walton County Sheriff's Office, in partnership with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, St Johns County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Police Department, Escambia County Sheriff's Office, Pensacola Police Department, Bay County Sheriff's Office, Tallahassee Police Department and Crestview Police Department, which are all members of the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Task Force, conducted an operation called "Operation Turkey Hunt" to take all violators into custody who traveled from multiple locations to Walton County with the intent to have sexual relations with a minor.
The operation ran from Wednesday, November 13th thru Monday morning, November 18th. During the course of the operation, numerous posts were placed on several social networking sites. The undercover profiles that were used online were mostly of juvenile females and males with the approximate age of 12 to 13 years old. The online advertisements had been posted to target suspects who engage in sexual activities with underage minors within the State of Florida.
Ten individuals responded to online advertisements through the use of email and electronic communications. During conversations with some of the suspects and the undercover officer, who was posing as a 12 year old female's mother, the suspects solicited the "mother" to engage in sexual activity with the 12 year old female.
Other conversations consisted of the suspect engaging in conversations with the undercover officer, posing as a 13 year old male, and the suspect solicited the 13 year old male to engage in sexual activity. During the course of the conversations, the suspects obtained an address and upon arrival at the location the suspects were all taken into custody.
The suspect ages ranged from early twenties to early fifties and occupations run the gamut from active duty military, steel worker, retail sales, unemployed and a preacher. The suspects are the following:
All suspects were booked at the Walton County Department of Corrections. Each suspect was issued a million dollar bond with the following release conditions: no contact with minors and wear an electronic tracking device.
Sheriff Mike Adkinson stated, "We want those individuals who would prey on our children to be afraid of what is waiting behind the door for them. I want them to understand that when it comes to protecting our children we are the boogeyman waiting to get them." To combat the online sexual exploitation of children, many hours were devoted to the planning and execution of this operation.
In the coming weeks, additional arrests could be made in connection with Operation Turkey Hunt.
Information provided by the Walton County Sheriff's Office