Investigation reveals theme park workers arrested on sex charges - FOX 13 News

Investigation reveals theme park workers arrested on sex charges

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TAMPA (FOX 13) -

Dozens of employees at some of Florida's biggest theme parks have been accused of committing sex crimes involving children, a national report released this week revealed.

A CNN investigation counted more than 40 workers at theme parks have faced charges dating back to 2006, including sex crimes involving children or child pornography: 35 at Disney World, five at Universal Sudios and two at Sea World.

"Sexual predators and pedophiles is what they are," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. "People who have a proclivity to be around children are going to work in churches, in schools, at theme parks."

According to CNN, 32 of those arrested have been found guilty. The rest of the cases have not yet been heard.

None of the alleged crimes have been committed at any of the theme parks or have involved any guests. Some of those accused say they're innocent, or claim they are the victims of entrapment of investigators pretending to be children online.

"You know who screams entrapment? Child predators, pedophiles and their attorneys," Judd said, who held a recent child sex sting conducted by the Polk County Sheriff's Office, where four workers were arrested.

Judd is supporting legislation proposed by U.S. Representative Dennis Ross, who wants to amend the country's polygraph law. The amendment would allow companies that deal directly with children to conduct lie detector tests on potential employees.

"Why wouldn't we want to be able to have a limited use of a polygraph for people who work around our children?" said Judd. "I think if you polled the people of the United States, they'd say 'let's do it. Let's give them every tool possible."

Jacquee Wahler, a spokesperson for Disney, said none of the employees arrested are currently working there.

"Providing a safe environment for children and families is a responsibility we take very seriously," Wahler said in a statement provided to FOX 13. "We have extensive measures in place, including pre-employment and ongoing criminal background checks and computer monitoring and firewalls. The numbers reported by CNN represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period. We continue to work closely with law enforcement and organizations like the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children as we constantly strengthen our efforts."

Sea World released a similar statement:

"The safety of our team members and guests is our highest priority," said Sea Work spokesperson Nick Gollattscheck. "We have no tolerance for illegal activity involving our team members or guests and remain committed to creating safe and comfortable workplaces and parks. We fully support and cooperate with law enforcement in their work to keep our communities safe and are supportive of continuing evaluation and discussion of the best ways to protect children from predators in our communities."

Tom Schroder, a Universal Studios spokesperson, told CNN in a statement:

"We have zero tolerance for this kind of activity. We deal with situations such as this immediately and permanently."

All three companies said their require extensive background checks. But the numbers were still staggering to some parents.

"I worry because I have my granddaughter and I don't know when I go to the park if I'm going to be secure with all the employees. It is very, very scary," said Margarita Rainya of Tampa.

"I just really think that there are bad people everywhere," added Rebecca Wicker. "I think it's everywhere, unfortunately, and I think it's up to us as parents, care-givers, to do our number one job and that's to take care of our kids."

 

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