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Alachua County Sheriff’s Office Arrests More Than 20 People In Internet Sting Operation

Posted by on in Florida Criminal Law
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The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office, in conjunction with several other local law enforcement agencies, has arrested at least twenty different individuals for utilizing various Internet social meeting sites to allegedly attempt communication with a person believed to be a minor regarding sexual activity.   No actual children were involved - only adult law enforcement officers posing as minors.  The Gainesville television station WCJB reports that one of those arrested was an elementary school teacher.  This blog will not report the names of those arrested as all are presumed innocent.

Beginning late last week Gainesville criminal defense attorneys at DeThomasis & Buchanan noted several arrests that appeared to be the product of a local internet sting operation.  Upon investigation today, it has been confirmed that at least 20 people appear to have been arrested in the sting operation and charged with various sex offenses.  Law enforcement is referring to this sting as "Operation Tail Feather."

In each case it appears that law enforcement investigators posted advertisements on the internet posing as adults.  In some cases, when individuals responded to the advertisements, the agents would then disclose that they were trying to arrange sexual activity with a daughter, sister or niece.  This law enforcement internet activity appears similar to a classic bait and switch operation.

Arrest reports indicate that various Internet sites may have been used, including benaughty.com and “plenty of fish” - pof.com.  One of the titles for the Internet advertisements read as follows: “Looking for a ‘father figure’ for my niece, someone to teach her about the birds and bees.”

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office appears to have been assisted by multiple law enforcement agencies including the Gainesville Police Department and the City of Alachua Police Department.

At the present time it is unknown whether those arrested have any prior criminal record or a prior history of attempting to communicate with minors on the Internet.  It is likely that each alleged offender’s computer and cell phone have been seized.  It will be interesting to determine if any of those seized devices yield evidence of predisposition to commit the sex crimes for which they have been arrested.  A careful case by case analysis will be required to determine whether or not an entrapment defense is available to those that have been arrested during Operation Tail Feather.

For more information about sex offense in Florida click here.

Michael Buchanan is a practicing criminal defense attorney in Gainesville, Florida, with more than 25 years experience defending people accused of criminal misconduct. He is a former president of the Eighth Judicial Circuit chapter of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He is a member of the Florida Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers and the National Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. Read detailed professional biography here.