CITRUS COUNTY, Fla. – Today, the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s (CCSO) High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) is releasing the results of Operation Cyber Knights, a strategic undercover Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) operation to apprehend dangerous, cyber predators who had the intent to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Over the course of this operation, officials from the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, along with our partners at the United States Marshals Service Florida/Caribbean Fugitive Task Force (USMS FCFTF), the United States Secret Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE), Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, Pasco County Sheriff’s Office, Sarasota Police Department, and the Longwood Police Department worked collaboratively to capture these online child sex predators.
During the operation, law enforcement officials posed undercover as either a 13 or 14-year-old girl or boy and exchanged online messages with these subjects.
Despite the acknowledgment of the child’s age, in various messages these subjects engaged in sexually explicit conversations, detailing different sexual activities they hoped to perform with the child. In total, ten arrests were made as a result of this operation.
“Parents – predators know how susceptible and trusting our children are,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast.
“They also know just how easy it is to gain access to your children and exploit them through the internet. The disgusting and sexually deviant behaviors these predators displayed in their online chats are monstrous. But to willingly arrange to meet up with a child to carry out these sickening acts makes them very real and very dangerous. I am extremely proud of the teamwork from the various law enforcement agencies that went into making these arrests possible and for knowing that thanks to their dedication, we’ve stopped these sexual predators from preying on children in our county and our surrounding counties,” said Prendergast.
CCSO would like to thank all of our local, state, and federal law enforcement agency partners who played an integral role in the success of this operation and were unwavering in their commitment to protecting our youth.
If you suspect someone is committing crimes against our youth, call (352) 249-2790 to report your suspicions to our office immediately. You may also contact Crime Stoppers of Citrus County at 1-888-ANY-TIPS to remain anonymous.
Or download the Sheriff’s App (search Citrus County Sheriff’s Office) to use the Submit a tip’ feature to instantly make a report.