Law enforcers called it "Operation Home Alone," and coincidentally, that was literally the case in one subsequent arrest.
In explaining Manatee County's Michael Dempsey's arrest, Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said Sunday night Dempsey "...leaves his 10 and 12 year old daughters at home alone because their mom's working, comes up here to Pinellas County to meet this 14-year-old to have sex with her."
Dempsey is one of 35 men now facing multiple felony charges after showing up for sexual rendezvous with children under the age of 16.
From Thursday afternoon through Sunday night, a dozen detectives posed online either as children willing to have sex, or adults willing to provide children to have sex.
The youngest person arrested is a 19-year old USF student who allegedly wanted to have sex with a 14-year old boy.
"And get this," Gualtieri added, "He wants to be an elementary school teacher."
Another arrestee claimed he had sex with his own 4-year old daughter, and allegedly wanted to swap his kids for someone else's. Russell Edwards allegedly wanted to teach young girls how to have sex in a variety of ways.
He chatted with a detective posing as the mother of 14-year old and 11-year old daughters.
"In the chats, he asked the mother -- who he thought was the mother -- if she would hold the 11 year old down while he had anal sex with the 11 year old," Gualtieri said.
The primary agencies involved with "Operation Home Alone" were the Pinellas Sheriff's Office and the Clearwater Police Department. A variety of other agencies provided detectives trained in online sting operations.
"Five minutes after logging on to the chat line, each detective had anywhere between five and eight people in a queue talking to them," Clearwater Police Chief Anthony Holloway said in a news conference Monday afternoon.
He and the sheriff promised to repeat the effort.
"If these predators are going to go after our children, we're going to do everything in our power to make sure we go after these predators," Holloway said.
Sheriff Gualtieri agreed.
"As we stand here today, in Pinellas County at least, this is the number one problem that we face," Gualtieri said. "The prescription drug problem is still a big problem, but it is not the number one problem anymore. This is the number one problem."
The sheriff even has a strong word for his intentions: Eradication. "They are predators, nothing but predators, who are after 11, 12, 13, 14 year old kids," Gualtieri said. "They really need to be eradicated from our county, they need to be eradicated from our culture."
FOX 13 / WTVT-TV
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