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martedì 16 maggio 2017
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - An undercover operation with law enforcement officers posing as 13- and 14-year-olds on the internet has resulted in 21 arrests of men from Florida and Georgia on charges of soliciting minors for sex
Sheriff Mike Williams announced the results of Operation Watchdog, conducted with Northeast Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force that spent five days last week posing as minors on social media and in chat rooms.
Williams said 18 men ages 21 to 61 and from as far north as Snellville, Georgia, to Silver Springs, Florida, were arrested after traveling to Jacksonville thinking they were going to meet an underage girl or boy for sex. Three more were arrested after additional investigation.
One person arrested in the sting was Kyle Parmenter, 24, an assistant to a third-grade teacher at Palencia Elementary School. St. Johns County school officials said he was hired in October after his background check came back clean. The school district suspended Parmenter with pay after his arrest.
Parents at Palencia were alarmed and disgusted by the thought that a teacher could be capable of molesting a young child.
"It's gross. It's unimaginable," Ryan Lahey said. "Couldn’t imagine that someone like that could be around children."
Two men resisted violently and had to be subdued. One of them, Cody Thatcher, 21, tried to drive off and struck a JSO police cruiser while trying to escape, Williams said. He was also charged with battery on a law enforcement officer.
The man accused of traveling the farthest thinking he would meet a child for sex was Jerry Thomas, 52, who was already on probation on a sex crime conviction in Georgia.
Others arrested in the sting were 25-year-oldAbdul Alkhaedei, a student at the University of North Florida, and David Lee Hammett, 36, a Publix employee.
The Clay County and St. Johns County sheriff's offices, Orange Park police, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the State Attorney's Office all assisted in the case.
Williams ended his announcement with a message directed at children and teenagers.
"Kids: Make sure your parents know when you are online and what you are doing. Never give out any personal information to anyone in chat rooms or apps or on social media. Never send a picture to anyone over the internet. Never communicate with someone who makes you feel uncomfortable or scared on any of these platforms. Never meet with anyone you communicate with online, and tell your parents right away if you receive any inappropriate communications or see anything that makes you feel the least way uncomfortable. Remember, people you meet online may not be who they say they are," Williams said.
The sheriff also reminded parents that their involvement is key to child safety in every area and especially on the internet.