POLK COUNTY, Fla.—A local man was one of 18 charged in a sex sting operation coordinated by a dozen state law enforcement agencies trying to nab potential child predators over the last week, authorities say.
Undercover detectives posing as children, posted online ads either as children or the guardians of children soliciting sex acts from adults, the Polk County Sheriff's Office say.
From March 29 to April 4, "Operation April Fool's" saw 18 men from around the state, including Ponte Vedra, drive to Polk County to have sex with what they believed were children, authorities say.
Some men brought condoms, others brought candy and some even brought narcotics to the meeting place. The 18 men charged face a total of 103 charges. Seventeen were arrested and one warrant for arrest was issued.
The men interacted with what they thought were children, asking for pornographic images from the "kids" and oftentimes sending pornographic images of themselves, authorities say.
A few of the men thought they were talking to a father of a girl as young as ten, and several conversed with what they thought was a 13-year-old boy.
Michael Dean Thompson, 20, of Ponte Vedra arrived in Polk County on March 30 to have sex with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl, Polk County deputies say.
He told the "girl" he was 18 and that he would "make sure her first time was the best," authorities say.
When he was arrested, he told deputies that he didn't think she was 14, despite being told multiple times online that she was, authorities say.
He told authorities he was single and worked at public.
Thompson faces charges of use of two-way communication to commit a felony, use of computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor, use of computer to seduce a child and misrepresent his age and attempted lewd battery.
The average age of men caught in Operation April Fool's was 28, but the youngest was 19 and the oldest was sixty. Five admitted to being married.
To read the full list of arrest reports and charges, head to this link.