Three Florida men who tried to meet a child for sex found themselves in the hands of sheriff’s deputies instead, part of a nationwide undercover operation targeting online predators.
The defendants arrested in Volusia County Sheriff’s “Operation Cyber Scumbag” each made clear in their chats that they believed they were talking to girls 15 years old or younger.
Each defendant sent several sexually explicit messages, then followed through by traveling to meet their victims.
MarcAnthony Fernandez, 26, of Deltona, thought he was talking to a 12-year-old girl. “If we do this you can’t tell nobody,” he texted her. When she wrote, “So my parents are going to bed soon,” Fernandez replied, “Oh OK perfect.” When he arrived at the meeting place, deputies took him into custody and found a box of condoms he had bought on the way.
Christopher Alan Geske, 32, of Port Orange, thought he was texting with a 14-year-old girl. In addition to commenting on their age difference (“I am like twice your age lol”), he told her he would “probably ruin you for all other men after me from being so good.” Geske also brought condoms and a change of clothes to the meeting.
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William M. Baldwin, 30, of New Smyrna Beach, thought he’d found a 15-year-old and told her: “This is my first for trying to chase after, take the virginity of, and love a 15 yo.” When he was arrested, he was still holding a cell phone displaying his chats with the undercover unit.
Each defendant was charged with using a computer to seduce/solicit/lure a child, traveling to seduce/solicit/lure a child, attempted lewd and lascivious battery, and use of a 2-way communication device to commit a felony. Baldwin was also charged with possession of methamphetamine.
While the “children” in these cases were undercover detectives, Volusia County has seen child victims targeted by predators online.
This operation occurred a week after an online predator, 24-year-old Tyler Thompson, was sentenced to 40 years in prison after a Volusia sheriff’s deputy tracked him to an Edgewater motel room with a 13-year-old girl he met on Snapchat.
“We’re not going to stand by while predators try to lure kids away from their families to steal their innocence,” Sheriff Mike Chitwood said following the operation. “Each of the cyber scumbags we encountered here was willing to take an obvious risk and meet with a child. I’m just glad they met our deputies instead.”