A Florida Department of Law Enforcement online sex sting called 'Operation e-Guardian' ended with 15 alleged child predators arrested from five Bay area counties, according to special agent in charge Rick Ramirez.
"The suspects were all males, range in age from 23-to-68," he said. "Many brought sex toys and condoms with them."
Ramirez said Operation e-Guardian began last Wednesday and ended Monday morning. Undercover agents set up inside an undisclosed Hillsborough County home, pretended to be 13-to-15 year old girls on social media sites or chat rooms and the suspects traveled to meet with what they thought was a child, according to FDLE.
"In each case, the suspects believed they were communicating with a child or the parents of a child," Ramirez said. "These men came from Hillsborough, Polk, Pinellas, Pasco and Sarasota Counties. None of these men have had previous sex convictions."
FDLE special agent supervisor Chuck McMullen said they're also looking to arrest the people who expressed interest in having sex with a child online but did not show up at the home.
"We're going to do our part, in our investigative efforts, to find those people and also arrest them as well," he said.
McMullen said while agents are doing their best to protect children, there's measures parents can take too.
"The best way to prevent your child from being victimized is being engaged with them," he said. "Know what their online habits are, educate them on the dangers."
Operation e-Guardian is the first time FDLE has taken the lead during an on-line child sex sting. In the past, FDLE has assisted other agencies with similar operations. McMullen said FDLE will head up more stings in the future.
"Through a collaborative effort of law enforcement and prosecution agencies, we are protecting the children of Tampa Bay," he said.
Here's a list of the 15 men arrested in Operation e-Guardian:
Trinton Jones, 23, Riverview
Jeffrey Willey, 53, Lutz
Robert Frank, 45, Zephyrhills
Jason Miles, 46, Tampa
Ocnel Blanc, 28, Temple Terrace
Michael Murphy, 23, Sarasota
Daniel Anderson, 37, Tampa
Clay Johnson, 25, Thonotosassa
Clay Reddick, 28, Winter Haven
Mark Thompson, 23, Riverview
Samuel Ramirez, 23, Ruskin
Bryan La Clair, 51, Bartow
Jose Alvarez III, 23, Wellington
Branden Sarno, 23, Palm Harbor
David Yoder, 68, Dade City