By Julie Montanaro
March 6, 2013
Tallahassee, FL - Court records show Jeffery Weldy was found guilty of computer solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex last week.
Prosecutors say it took a jury less than an hour to find Weldy guilty on two counts of unlawful use of a computer and one count of traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Prosecutor Kathy Ray says Weldy answered an ad on Craigs List and thought he was chatting with a 14 year old girl.
Weldy’s sentencing is set for April 3rd.
UPDATED 1.24.2013 by Julie Montanaro
An FSU graduate student was found guilty this week of soliciting a teen for sex on line and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Ryan McCarthy was relieved of his teaching duties in the English Department immediately after his arrest.
McCarthy will remain in jail until his sentencing. He has another court date Feburary 15th.
UPDATED 1.8.2013 by Julie Montanaro
A Tallahassee man was convicted today of soliciting a teen on line for sex .
30 year old Carlos Stephens was caught in an internet sex sting back in October 2011.
It took a jury just an hour and 15 minutes today to find Stephens guilty as charged of unlawful use of a computer and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
He'll be sentenced next week.
UPDATED 12.20.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Three more men nabbed in a Tallahassee internet sex sting are now headed to prison.
Both Dennis Crosby and Dustin Elsberry were sentenced this week to three years and six months in prison.
Robert Stewart was sentenced to three years in prison and another five years on probation.
All three men were accused of internet solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex. Stewart was acquitted of the solicitation charge.
The men were arrested along with more than three dozen others in a record breaking sting last fall.
UPDATED 12.13.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A Tallahassee man accused of traveling to meet a minor for sex will be spared a prison sentence.
26 year old Steven Barraco was sentenced to just shy of a year in the county jail and another five years on probation.
Barraco was one of nearly 40 men arrested in a Tallahassee internet sex sting last fall.
Prosecutors say he could have faced more than three years in prison, but the judge opted for a lighter sentence - in part - because Barraco needs specialized mental health treatment.
UPDATED 12.4.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A man busted in a Tallahassee internet sex sting is now on his way to prison.
21 year old Eduardo Hernandez was recently convicted of internet solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Hernandez was sentenced this afternoon to three and a half years in prison. He will be a registered sex offender.
Hernandez was one of nearly 40 men arrested in the so-called "Tally Op" sting last fall.
Tallahassee, FL - A jury deliberated for more than four hours before returning with a verdict for Robert Stewart.
The jury was hung on the charge of computer solicitation. It found Stewart guilty of traveling to meet a minor for sex.
A sentencing date has not been set.
UPDATED 10.31.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A Tallahassee man accused in an internet sex sting is waiting on a verdict.
Robert Stewart is accused of internet solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex. He was one of nearly 40 men arrested in a sting last fall.
Police say Stewart answered an ad on Craigslist that said "single dad seeking male teacher." Prosecutors contend he showed up to have sex with a 14 year old hours later.
Defense attorneys call it entrapment.
The jury has been deliberating since two o'clock this afternoon. We'll keep you posted on a verdict.
UPDATED 10.30.2012 7pm by Julie Montanaro
A member of the Georgia National Guard is now under guard himself.
This afternoon a jury found Dustin Elsberry guilty in an internet sex sting and he could face up to 20 years in prison for it.
Dustin Elsberry didn't say a word in court Tuesday.
It's what he said - via email and text message - last fall that landed him behind bars.
It all started, officers say, when Elsberry answered an ad on Craigslist that said "R u as bord as I m?"
"He took the conversation and started talking about drinking with her. He started talking about dancing with her and eventually asked 'would you like to do something sexual?'" prosecutor Jack Campbell told the jury.
On the other end of that "casual encounters" ad was Tallahassee Police Officer Russ Houston. He was using the name Amber and convinced Elsberry that he wasn't a cop at all, but a 14 year old girl - who looked much older.
Yet Elsberry's attorney argued entrapment, saying only folks over 18 are allowed to post personal ads on Craiglist and the woman waiting at that house in Killearn was no adolescent.
"It was a full grown woman... comes out of the front door of the house...waves him to come inside," defense attorney Zach Ward argued.
The jury considered 41 electronic messages in less than four hours and a condom in Elsberry's pocket.
The all female jury returned with a guilty verdict in little more than an hour.
Elsberry is still an active member of the Georgia National Guard, according to his lawyer, and continued to drill while awaiting trial.
A sentencing date has not been set.
UPDATED October 29 3:40pm by Julie Montanaro
A Georgia National Guardsman has been found guilty of computer solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
The all female jury deliberated for about an hour and ten minutes before finding Dustin Elsberry guilty as charged.
Elsberry faces a maximum of 20 years in prison. A sentencing date has not been set.
Elsberry was one of nearly 40 men arrested during an internet sex sting in Tallahassee in October 2011.
Tallahassee, FL October 30 11:48am by Julie Montanaro
Both the state and the defense have rested their cases.
Dustin Elsberry told the judge he did not wish to testify and the defense did not call any other witnesses.
The defense asked the judge to acquit Elsberry, arguing the sting was entrapment. The judge said no.
The prosecutor called three witnesses before resting his case.
Tallahassee Police Officer Russell Houston testified he posed as a 14 year old girl named Amber in his email and text chats with Dustin Elsberry.
Houston says he told Elsberry in his very first email that he was 14 going on 15, but "look older."
A series of 41 messages was displayed on a big screen in the courtroom.
"If you said 18 I'd be very interested," one of the texts said.
When the agent posing as a teen girl replied that she was home alone for the weekend, Elsberry continued talking with her. He asked repeatedly if the teen girl was a cop or if this was a set up.
Prosecutors say within three and a half hours, Elsberry arrived at the Killearn home to meet the girl with a condom in his pocket.
Prosecutors also played a video of Elsberry being interviewed in an upstairs bedroom soon after his arrest. Elsberry confirmed his phone number and email conversations, but repeatedly said he thought you had to be 18 to be on Craigs list.
Attorneys are expected to make closing arguments at 1
o'clock. The jury will begin deliberating after that.
Tallahassee, FL - October 30, 2012 - 10:40am by Julie Montanaro
Dustin Elsberry is now on trial. He's accused of responding to an ad on Craigslist and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
The ad said "Are you as bored as I am?"
Prosecutors say the undercover officer who chatted with Elsberry was posing as a 14 year old girl.
Defense attorneys say Elsberry is from Rome, Georgia, but was in Thomasville, Georgia for a drill with the Georgia National Guard.
Defense attorneys say Craigslist requires those who post and respond to ads to confirm they are at least 18 years of age.
They say when Elsberry showed up at the home in Killearn for the rendezvous, a grown woman on the phone walked out the front door and waved him inside.
Tallahassee, FL - A man found guilty of traveling to have sex with a minor will serve 45 months behind bars.
Jason Jerrell, 32, was arrested as part of an undercover sex sting operation in Tallahassee. After serving time, Jerrell will serve five years of sex offender probation.
He's also guilty of using a computer to solicit a parent for sex with a minor. There were 38 men arrested in a record-breaking sting in Tallahassee back in October of 2011.
UPDATED 10.10.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Eduardo Hernandez was found guilty this week of computer solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
Neil Chavez was sentenced last week on similar charges. Court records show he entered a plea and was sentenced to three and half years in prison and five more on probation.
UPDATED 10.8.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Court records show that Jeffery Weldy has withdrawn his plea. He's been released from jail and the judge has set a case management hearing on October 17th.
UPDATED 9.20.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A Tallahassee man arrested in an internet sex sting is now headed to prison.
Jeffery Weldy was sentenced to three and a half years in prison this morning.
He recently plead no contest to charges of internet solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
He was one of more than three dozen men arrested in a record breaking sex sting called TallyOp last fall.
UPDATED 9.5.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Many of the men arrested in Tallahassee's record-breaking child sex sting are now going to trial.
Two were convicted just last week of soliciting a child on line and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
A Tallahassee woman whose friend was arrested in that sting claims many of the men are being trapped. She says in many cases they begin chatting with an adult only to have a child introduced into the conversation.
She claims the men don't stand a chance in front of a jury and are unfairly being branded as sex offenders for the rest of their lives.
"I don't believe this makes them criminals. They are not sex offenders. They are not looking for children. They would not be doing it on an adult site," Forbes said.
"It's not entrapment. All we're doing is creating an opportunity for people. It's just like an undercover officer standing on a street corner selling or offering drugs. Nobody has to buy them," prosecutor Stefanie Walters said in response.
There were 38 men arrested in that record breaking sting in Tallahassee last October. Most of them are still awaiting trial. Four have been convicted by juries, one has been found not guilty and at least three others have entered pleas.
[UPDATE] Tallahassee, Florida- August 31, 2012 by Lanetra Bennett
NOTE: Story contains explicit language
A jury finds a Tallahassee man guilty after hearing details of sexual acts he would do to a 12-year-old girl. The public defender said law enforcement agents used entrapment when they pretended to be a mother who wanted her 12-year-old daughter to have sex with a man.
Jarrell took the woman up on the online offer and now he's been found guilty of solicitation of a minor.
The ad was undercover officers pretending to be a mother who wanted her 12-year-old daughter to have sex for the first time. A phone conversation with an undercover officer who Jarrell thought was the mother was played in court Friday.
Kathy Ray, Prosecutor: Obviously, what we're talking about is sex. That's not an issue. We're talking about the same thing, right?
Jason Jarrell, Defendant: Yes.
Jarrell said that he would massage the young girl to loosen her up for sex. "I'm not saying just massage, but, yeah rub her breasts, rub her vagina, whatever seems to be comfortable at the time."
Jarrell was arrested when he went to a house to meet the woman and daughter.
Kathy Ray, Prosecutor: You went all the way over to Killearn to see what type of person this woman was?
Jason Jarrell, Defendant: It was a five or ten minute drive and yes, I did.
Kathy Ray, Prosecutor: Is what you want this jury to believe that you just happened to stop for condoms before you went over there.
Jason Jarrell, Defendant: They asked me to bring some. I didn't know what the intentions of the woman were. She asked me to bring condoms.
Kathy Ray, Prosecutor: Why on earth would you bring condoms to a house where you've been talking back and forth with somebody who wants you to have sex with their 12-year-old unless you were going to use them to have sex with a 12-year-old, sir?
Jason Jarrell, Defendant: Because I wanted to possibly talk to the mother and see if there was some kind of connection there. I really had no intentiions of sleeping with a 12-year-old.
UPDATE: August 31, 2012 at 3:55pm by Lanetra Bennett
Jason Jarrell has been found guilty.
UPDATE: August 31, 2012 at 2:52pm by Lanetra Bennett
The jury is now deliberating.
UPDATE: August 31, 2012 at 12:45pm by Lanetra Bennett
The public defender made a motion to dismiss the case and a motion of acquittal. He says his requests are based on Objective Entrapment.
The lawyer says it is against the law to offer sex for something else in exchange. He says Jarrell could not solicit sex if the "mother" had already agreed to the "daughter" having sex.
Judge Hankinson denied the motions. He said he will leave it to the jury to decide.
UPDATE: August 31, 2012 at 12:15pm by Lanetra Bennett
Jason Jarrell is on the witness stand.
UPDATED: August 31, 2012 at 11:15am by Lanetra Bennett
In the phone conversation, the undercover cop is giving the ground rules of having sex with the 12-year-old daughter. Jarrell says he wouldn't do anything that the "daughter" wouldn't want him to.
He says he would warm her up by massaging her and rubbing her legs. He says he would probably also rub her breasts and vagina to get her comfortable before having sex. He says he would perform oral sex on the daughter if she seemed into it.
Jarrell's girlfriend and her 16-year-old daughter are in the courtroom during the trial and are listening to all of this.
UPDATED: August 31, 2012 at 11am by Lanetra Bennett
The prosecution is playing the audio in court of the phone conversation between Jarrell and a female undercover officer.
UPDATED: August 31, 2012 at 10:55am by Lanetra Bennett
The prosecutor says Jarrell answered a personals ad on Craigslist on October 12, 2011. The ad was posted by law enforcement agents posing as a mother who wanted her 12-year-old daughter to have sex with a man for the first time.
Jarrell answered the ad saying he would help. The public defender says Jarrell had no intentions of having sexual contact with a minor.
Jarrell was arrested when he arrived at the home with condoms.
A Tallahassee Police Department investigator and a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent with the Cyber Crimes Unit have testified about their online conversations with Jarrell. Both posed as the 40-year-old mother.
In emails, Jarrell repeatedly asked about meeting up with the mother and daughter.
The public defender says Jarrell worked at a sushi restaurant and was on the adult website to buy time.
UPDATED: August 31, 2012 at 10am by Lanetra Bennett
Tallahassee resident Jason Jarrell is now on trial. The 32-year-old is charged with two counts of computer pornography.
The first witness on the stand this morning was and investigator with the Tallahassee Police Department's Special Victims Unit, who was one of the undercover officers in the sting.
UPDATED Tallahassee, Florida- August 30, 2012 by Lanetra Bennett
A man who once was an intern for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Crimes Against Children's Unit has been found guilty of soliciting a 14 year old girl for sex.
Kevin Cantrell was one of about three dozen people arrested last fall in an Internet sex sting. Undercover officers posed as teenaged girls online. Today, Cantrell took the stand in his own defense, saying he went to visit the supposed teen, because he thought it was an adult playing games with him.
Kevin Cantrell says he was depressed and lonely and it's why he answered a personals ad on Craigslist.
Said Don Pumphrey, a defense attorney: "He goes to the door to knock on it, he was tackled by five guys."
Cantrell was arrested last October during "Tallyop"- an undercover Internet sex sting. The person who placed the ad was a Tallahassee Police Officer posing as a teenager.
During his trial Thursday, Cantrell took the stand and said he thought he was chatting online with an adult. Even though the officer said in their online coversation she was almost 15 years old, Cantrell says her reaction to his dirty talk said otherwise to him.
Cantrell described the talk as: "Very explicit in detail. The woman responded and understood it. What did that tell you at that time? That told me absolutely that this was absolutely a woman."
The prosecution played Cantrell's phone conversation with the supposed teen in court.
Said Prosecutor Kathy Ray: "Didn't you intern for the Florida Department of Law Enforcement Internet Crimes Against Children sections?
Cantrell: "Yes, that's correct."
Ray: "Okay and you're telling me that you don't have any knowledge that people under the age of 18 don't go onto Craigslist? Is that your testimony?
About three dozen people were arrested during that Tallyop undercover sting. Another defendent, Jason Jarrell, goes on trial tomorrow.
UPDATE: August 30, 2012 at 3:10pm by Lanetra Bennett
The jury is now deliberating.
UPDATE: August 30, 2012 at 12:35 pm by Lanetra Bennett
Cantrell is through testifying. His lawyer entered a motion to dismiss the case. Judge Hankinson denied the motion. The judge also has denied a motion of acquittal.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 12:17pm by Lanetra Bennett
Cantrell says it had to be a woman since it was an adult website.
The prosecutor told Cantrell that it's unbelievable for him to not to know that some adults chat with minors on the internet because Cantrell once was an intern with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement's Crimes Against Children division.
Cantrell keeps maintaining on the witness stand that everything he did and said that night was only playing into the persona of an adult woman playing games.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 12:10pm by Lanetra Bennett
Cantrell is testifying that he thought the person he was chatting with online and texting on the phone was an adult playing some type of game.
The prosecutor asked why would he waste his time playing games with a woman if he's on a website with thousands of other women listed to potentially talk to.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 11:45am by Lanetra Bennett
Cantrell just got on the witness stand.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 11:29am by Lanetra Bennett
The state has rested. The only witness the defense has is Cantrell himself.
Cantrell told the judge he wants to tell his side of the story. He will take the stand soon.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 11:27am by Lanetra Bennett
The Tallahassee Police investigator who was posing as a teenager while chatting online with Cantrell took the stand. The undercover officer went over all of the correspondence between the two over the internet and text messages.
A female detective from the Alachua County Sheriff's Office pretending as the teen girl is the one who had the phone conversation with Cantrell.
The prosecution is playing the audio of that conversation to the court.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 11:08am by Lanetra Bennett
The prosecutor says on the night of October 14, 2011, Cantrell responded to a personals ad posted on Craigslist. The person Cantrell was chatting with online was an undercover female police officer, but the prosecutor says Cantrell thought he was talking to a 14-year-old girl.
The prosecutor says Cantrell was talking about sex and what he wanted to do with the girl.
Cantrell was arrested after going to a home in Killearn in northeast Tallahassee to visit the person he thought he was was chatting with online.
Cantrell's defense attorney says in Cantrell's mind, he was speaking with an adult because he was on an adult-only website. The attorney says Cantrell, who was 25 at that time, was using explicit language, only because he didn't believe he was talking to a 14-year-old. The attorney says Cantrell could tell by certain terms being used that the person was an adult but decided to go along with "the game." The attorney says Cantrell went to the house to verify it was a woman because she wouldn't send him a picture. He says had a photo of a minor been posted, Cantrell wouldn't have agreed to a visit.
UPDATED: August 30, 2012 at 9:30am by Lanetra Bennett
The jury has just been sworn in in the trial of Kevin Cantrell. Cantrell is charged with computer solicitation of a minor and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Opening arguments are underway. Cantrell was one of more than three dozen people arrested in the "Tallyop" Internet sex sting in October 2011.
UPDATED 8.15.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A man arrested in an internet sex sting is now headed to prison.
26 year old Dustin Calloway entered a no contest plea to computer solicitation and travelling to meet a minor for sex.
Calloway was sentenced to three years and six months in prison.
He'll be a registered sex offender once he gets out.
UPDATED 8.9.2012 by Julie Montanaro
William Marlowe will spend just shy of four years in prison for computer solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Marlowe, age 41, was one of the men arrested in an internet sex sting in Tallahassee last fall.
He entered a no contest plea last month.
This week a judge sentenced him to three years and ten months in prison followed by five years on probation. He will be a registered sex offender when he's released.
UPDATED 8.9.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A jury today found 23 year old Thomas Murphy guilty of computer solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex. A sentencing date has not yet been set.
UPDATED 7.3.2012 by Julie Montanaro
A Tallahassee man arrested in an internet sex sting was found guilty, but will not spend any time in prison.
That sentence is infuriating to those who say Ho Yeoun Seo showed up with a condom in his pocket to have sex with a 14 year old.
A jury found Ho Yeaon Seo guilty of using a computer to solicit a child for sex and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
A court score sheet shows he faced a minimum of 42 months in prison and a maximum of 20 years.
The judge, Charles Dodson, sentenced Seo to 11 months and 29 days in the county jail, nine years probation, adjudication withheld.
"There ought to be a consequence to sexual predators in our community and it ought to be a serious consequence and in this case, you know you hate to say the old cliche, a slap on the wrist, it's not even a slap on the wrist," state attorney Willie Meggs said. "It's an outrage."
"He traveled from a distance away to come meet a 14 year old who he knew and believed to be home alone with a condom in his pocket to have sex with her," prosecutor Stefanie Walters said.
"We can't even export him back to the country from where he came. He's gonna be here with us in the United States and our children are additional potential victims for him," Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell said.
"There was no child involved in this case. There was a trap laid. There were multiple opportunities for anyone who was involved in this to think they were dealing with an adult," defense attorney Matt Willard said.
Willard says the judge agreed to a downward departure in the sentence because it was an isolated incident for which Seo showed remorse. He considers the sentence fair.
"I think it was reasonable. I think it displayed compassion. The judge had the authority based on what the legislature gave us to work with as far as grounds for departure," Willard said.
"Obviously, you can understand why people see this case and are upset?"
"Sure, I'm a big fan of sending child predators to prison, but this guy is just not one of them," Willard said.
Circuit Judge Charles Dodson says he cannot comment on this case or any other.
A check of court records shows 20 more men arrested in that same sex sting are scheduled to stand trial between now and the end of the year.
UPDATED 6.28.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Ho Seo was sentenced earlier this week for internet solicitation and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Judge Charles Dodson sentenced Seo to 11 months and 29 days in jail followed by nine years on probation. Seo will have to register as a sex offender when he gets out of jail.
Sentencing guidelines showed Seo faced a minimum of 42 months in prison to a maximum of 20 years, but Seo's attorney argued successfully for a downward departure in that sentence.
"Based on the totality of the circumstances, and the law, Judge Dodson's sentencing order was fair, compassionate and very well reasoned," defense attorney Matt Willard said.
Court documents show Seo worked in a lab at FSU and played guitar in church. His wife testified on his behalf at the sentencing hearing.
Prosecutors are livid. "We think people who want to have sex with children ought to go to prison, that travel to have sex with children ought to go to prison," state attorney Willie Meggs said.
"He came up to the house with a condom in his pocket to have sex with a 14 year old," prosecutor Stefanie Walters said.
Prosecutors plan to appeal Seo's sentence.
Seo was one of 38 men arrested in an internet sex sting in Tallahassee last fall.
UPDATED 5.10.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Court records show that Ho Yeaon Seo, one of 38 men arrested in an internet sex sting last fall, was found guilty this week.
Court records show Seo was found guilty Wednesday of unlawful use of a computer and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Seo's sentencing is set for June 27th at 3pm.
He faces a maximum of 30 years in prison.
UPDATED 2.13.2012 by Julie Montanaro
Four more men arrested in an internet sex sting in Tallahassee are now facing federal charges.
Court records show a federal grand jury returned indictments last week for Kevin Butler, Ricky Carver, Kenneth Miller and Charles Sumner.
All are accused of inducing and enticing minors for sex. Sumner, who is from Thomasville, faces an additional count for traveling to meet a minor for sex.
UPDATED 12.20.2011 by Julie Montanaro
One of the men accused in a underage sex sting in Tallahassee was set free today.
32 year old Ali Karapinar was found not guilty of enticing a minor in his federal trial.
The clerk says a jury deliberated for two hours before reaching its verdict.
Karapinar was one of 38 men arrested in a record-breaking on line sting in October. He was the first to face federal charges for it.
UPDATED 11.29.2011 by Julie Montanaro
Authorities have upped the ante in an underage sex sting that netted 38 arrests in Tallahassee. One case is now going federal.
32 year old Ali Karapinar was caught in an on line sting in October. He has just been indicted by a federal grand jury and is set to stand trial in federal court December 19th for enticement of an underage girl.
Karapinar faces 10 years to life if he's convicted.
UPDATED 10.24.2011 by Julie Montanaro
Two more men have been arrested in an underage sex sting. Both are accused of showing up for sex even after the sting made headlines four days in a row.
Dennis Crosby and Glen Harvey are both facing felonies for using the internet to try to solicit sex from the parents of young girls, ages 12 and 14.
Arrest papers say Crosby showed up with condoms and sex toys in his white Corvette.
Arrest papers say Harvey made the trip from Chipley and showed up with his three year old daughter in tow.
They bring the underage sex sting arrest tally to 38.
UPDATED 10.21.2011 by Julie Montanaro
The pastor of Christian Heritage Church says an employee arrested in an underage sex sting has been placed on administrative leave.
Pastor Ron McCants issued this statement:
Steve Jones has served as Christian Heritage Church's Technical Director for about one-and-a-half years.
As Technical Director, he has assisted the Church with audio/visual technology. His job requirements do not typically require him to work around children.
Christian Heritage Church is concerned to learn about Mr. Jones' arrest and has placed him on administrative leave, pending an investigation into the matter.
Christian Heritage Church prioritizes the safety of our members, guests and especially children by conducting a careful background check on all of its employees and in many other ways.
At this time, we cannot comment on the circumstances of Mr. Jones' arrest for lack of details, but our prayers certainly go out to all of those involved in this tragedy.
We hope that as a church we may be a comfort to any concerned.
UPDATED 10.21.2011 by Julie Montanaro
An underage sex sting that netted 35 men in Tallahassee has now netted one more.
Police reports indicate the man works at one of the Capital City's biggest churches.
33 year old Steven Jones has been arrested and accused of using the internet to try to solicit a father to have sex with his 14 year old daughter.
Arrest papers indicate Jones works at Christian Heritage Church. The church web site describes him as the church's technical director.
We have attempted to reach the pastor for comment, but have not yet received a response.
Arrest papers say Jones told police he responded to an ad on Craig's List that said "single dad seeking male teacher."
Undercover agents say Jones sent his picture and a sexually explicit "lesson plan."
Police say Jones said he was on his way but never showed up for the sexual encounter.
When he was questioned at the church Monday, Jones initially told police he was never serious about meeting the dad and daughter and was trying to bait the father into giving him the address so he could call the police.
At the end of the interview, arrest papers say, Jones admitted that he thought he might have a "sex addiction."
UPDATED 10-19-2011 by Lanetra Bennett
The arrests of 35 men in an underage sex sting is still the talk of Tallahassee. Perhaps the most shocking is man on that list is a local minister.
Kevin Williams was the man in the sex sting that we reported on yesterday who rode his bike from Crawfordville to Tallahassee to have sex with a minor. We've learned that he is a minister at a church in Tallahassee.
The arrest report says he claims he showed up with condoms in hand to have sex with a 12-year-old girl's mother, but his online chat messages say otherwise.
"They're supposed to be a prophet of God. They're supposed to lead the flock," says Tallahassee resident Johnny Byrd.
A minister at Jacob Chapel Baptist Church in Tallahassee is charged with traveling to have sex with a minor.
Williams was one of 35 men busted in a sex sting.
Byrd says, "A man do that, they sick."
The arrest report says an undercover cop was posing as a mother who needed help with her 12-year-old daughter and chatted with Williams online.
The report says the officer asked if Williams was interested in tutoring or sex.
Williams replied, "whatever it is you seek"... then eventually, he said, "Both."
The report says Williams asked to see a picture of the child.
The arrest report says the officer--posing as the child's mother--asked WIlliams to bring condoms... to which Williams replied, "this is one of the first and greatest lessons one will learn."
He agreed to bring condoms. The report goes on to say Williams says he will first let her [the child] relax first.
The report says Williams solicited, lured or enticed the mother to consent to him having sexual contact with the child.
Williams was given the address.
Police say Williams rode his bicycle from Crawfordville to a home in Tallahassee to meet the child.
Officers arrested him outside of the doorway. They say he had condoms on him.
The report says Williams told officers that he was there to have sex with the mom. He stated he was interested in becoming a law enforcement officer.
The pastor of Jacob Chapel says he is saddened by the arrest and is praying for all involved.
In a written statement, he says, "As a spiritual leader, my first concern is for the SOUL of the individual, as well as the safety and security of our community. Therefore I am reserving any further comments until the full investigation has been completed."
Williams posted a $12,500 bond Wednesday. He was released from jail at about 9:30 a.m.
Also, another person caught in the sting was Ryan McCarthy who is facing three felony charges.
McCarthy is graduate student in the English Department at FSU. He was also a teaching assistant , but the dean of students tells us he has been relieved of his teaching duties.
She says McCarthy could be disciplined and even expelled, but the university can't make that decision until it has a chance to review all the information first.
Students tell us McCarthy was teaching an introduction to Shakespeare class in the Williams Building, but wasn't in class today (Wednesday.)
The following is the official statement from Pastor O. Jermaine Simmons, Sr. of Jacob Chapel Baptist Church regarding the arrest of Kevin Williams:
The leadership and membership of the Jacob Chapel Baptist Church is saddened to learn of the recent arrest of our member and staff minister. As his pastor, I will continue to be prayerful with him, and for him, as the due process of the law takes its course.
As a spiritual leader, my first concern is for the SOUL of the individual, as well as the safety and security of our community. Therefore I am reserving any further comments until the full investigation has been completed, and the facts of this case have been revealed. At that time, the leadership and membership of Jacob Chapel will make a decision as to how we will address this issue.
Our thoughts and prayers are with Brother Williams, his family, and the entire community, and my sincere hope is that, in due time, the Lord and the law will bring clarity and closure to this sad turn of events.
Pastor O. Jermaine Simmons, Sr.
UPDATED 10.19.2011 3:45pm
We are learning more about some of the men arrested in an underage sex sting.
31 year old Kevin Williams of Crawfordville was the only man arrested who arrived on a bicycle.
We learned today that Williams is a minister at Jacob Chapel Baptist Church off Lake Bradford Road in Tallahassee.
Arrest papers say he spoke with an undercover agent posing as the mother of a 12 year old girl.
32 year old Ryan McCarthy is a graduate teaching assistant at FSU. A university spokeswoman says McCarthy was immediately relieved of his teaching duties when they learned about his arrest.
Students tell us McCarthy was teaching a class called "Introduction to Shakespeare" in the Williams Building, but was not in class today.
We have also learned that 45 year old Jon Maxwell works in Leon County's Mosquito Control division.
Leon County spokesman Jon Brown says Maxwell started working for the county in January 2010 and passed a required background check.
Maxwell has been suspended without pay, he said.
UPDATED 10.18.2011 7pm by Julie Montanaro
The lure of having sex with a young girl has landed 34 men behind bars in Tallahassee.
The sex sting is the biggest of its kind in the state so far. Undercover agents posing as girls - or their parents - say everyone arrested showed up to try to consumate a deal hatched on line.
"We'd like to think the people we meet on line are both friendly and harmless, but this is simply not the case. This investigation has revealed a disturbing number of individuals who have been actively targeting children in this community," Leon County Sheriff Larry Campbell said.
The men were all arrested in the span of one week for trying to have sex with underage girls.
Officers, deputies and marshals posing as 11 to 14 year olds on line say business was so brisk that they even arrested eight of men in the same day.
"The arrestees were steered by undercover investigators to a northeast Tallahassee location. Once they arrived, they were arrested and charged with crimes," Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones said.
"We were using social networking sites. We were using chat rooms and we were using a lot of public classified ad type things. We really were were everywhere on the internet," said Mike Phillips, head of FDLE's Computer Crimes Center.
Among those arrested for computer solicitation of a minor:
-Brantley Hill a correctional officer at Jefferson C-I. A DOC spokeswoman confirms he has now been fired.
-Nathan Dygart, an attorney who worked for the Agency for Persons with Disabilities. A spokeswoman says Dygart was fired Monday and did not have contact with any of the agency's customers.
-Tallahassee parks and rec employee Carlos Stephens. He has eight years of coaching and umpiring under his belt.
The Tallahassee Parks and Rec Director says he will start proceedings to fire the part time employee.
"We've done due diligence in doing background checks and drug screenings and he passed all those tests and has been a longtime employee of ours. I'm sickened by it honestly," director Dee Crumpler said.
Most of the men are from Tallahassee, but officers say several traveled long distance for their supposed sexual encounters.
Agents say Timothy Anderson traveled from Dothan, Alabama, Dustin Calloway traveled from Malone, Florida and Ricky Carver traveled from Orange Park, Florida.
Officers say one man, Kevin Williams of Crawfordville, even made the trek on his bicycle.
Agents added one more arrest this afternoon. FDLE says a man travelled from Jacksonville and was arrested at a park on Miccosukkee Road at 2:30 this afternoon.
An assistant state attorney says a solicitation charge carries a maximum penalty of five years in prison and the traveling to meet a minor for sex charge can carry up to 15 years in prison.
Half of those arrested are actually charged with using a computer to solicit a "parent" for sex with a minor. Phillips says some agents posed as mothers and fathers willing to coordinate sexual encounters with their own children.
UPDATE 10-18-2011 -- TPD Press Release --
During the week of October 10th-16th, the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force or ICAC, led an operation dubbed TALLYOP- which stands for Taking All Lawful Links To Protect our Youth from Offenders and Predators. This operation was aimed at predatory on-line solicitation of children for sex. Throughout the week the arrestees were steered by undercover investigators to a North East Tallahassee location. Once they arrived, they were arrested and charged with the crimes you see listed in the attached packet.
“Throughout the week there were 40-45 law enforcement officers working at any given time, and it could not have been accomplished without everyone working together to meet the common goal of ridding the streets of these predators. I would like to say a special “thank you” to John Madsen who is the North Florida ICAC Task Force Commander. Without his help this week would not have been possible,” said Tallahassee Police Chief Dennis Jones.
The agencies participating were: TPD, LCSO, FDLE, US Marshal’s, Us Attorney’s Office, State Attorney’s Office, ICE, the Alachua Sheriff’s Office, the St. Johns Sheriff’s Office, the Monroe County Sheriff’s Office and the Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office.
UPDATED 12:10pm by Julie Montanaro
See "Photos" tab above for pictures
An underage sex sting in Tallahassee turns out to be the biggest ICAC sting in the state so far.
The men arrested include an attorney, a correctional officer and a plumber.
Names, pictures and charges are all attached to this story.
Law officers arrested 34 men in seven days. They say all of them were willing to meet a young girl between the ages 11 and 14 for sex.
The sting lasted just one week from October 11th to October 16th. Officers, deputies, marshals and more connected with men on line and lured them with the promise of sex with a teenage girl.
"Our kids are on line every day from the cell phones to their computers, and we know they're running into these predators. We want to put ourselves as undercover officers in place of these kids so we can arrest every single one of them," said Mike Phillips with FDLE's Computer Crimes Center.
Most of the men are facing charges of using a computer to solicit sex with a minor and travelling to try to make it happen. One man even rode his bike to the rendezvous spot.
"Most of the men are from Tallahassee, but a few traveled quite a way. One is from Dothan, Alabama, one is from Malone, Florida in the panhandle and one is from Orange Park near Jacksonville.
A correctional officer was among those arrested. A Department of Corrections Spokeswoman says 21 year old Brantley Hill will likely be fired by the end of the day. She says he worked at Jefferson C-I for a little over a year as a housing officer.
Tallahassee attorney Nathan Dygart is also among those arrested. A member search on the Florida Bar web site says he is a 2009
graduate of FSU law school and a member of the young lawyers division.
Stefanie Walters with the state attorney's office says the men face up to five years in prison for on line solicitation and up to 15 years in prison for traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Some of the men could also face a federal charge which carries a minimum mandatory sentence of 10 years.
Tallahassee, Florida - October 18, 2011-
Complete list of suspects and mug shots can be found above in .doc format titled: Tally Op Photos and Charges
Officers announced the arrest of 34 men in a recent sting. Most are charged with using a computer to seduce a minor and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
Most of the men are from Tallahassee, but some traveled from as far away as Orange Park and Dothan.
The youngest man arrested is 18. There is also an attorney and a correctional officer on the list.