Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Authorities arrest 35 in Pinellas child predator sting


Some are husbands or fathers. One is in college studying to be an elementary school teacher. Another, a maintenance worker at Countryside Mall, was employed by a private contractor.

Their mug shots were displayed publicly Monday as authorities released the results of a four-day child predator investigation called "Operation Home Alone." It targeted people police say lurk online, seeking sex with minors.

Thirty-five men were arrested.

"They are predators. Nothing but predators. They really need to be eradicated from our county," Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri said during a news conference Monday. "I view this as the No. 1 public safety issue in Pinellas right now."

Gualtieri called the operation the largest of its kind ever in Pinellas.

Organized by the Pinellas County Sheriff's Office and the Clearwater Police Department, the investigation also involved other agencies, including the St. Petersburg Police Department, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the FBI.

During the sting, which started at 2 p.m. Thursday and ended at 2 a.m. Monday, 12 investigators posed online as girls and boys between the ages of 13 and 15, as well as parents offering their children up for sex. They worked from 2 a.m. to 2 p.m. each day at computers set up at Clearwater police headquarters.

One desktop screen on an investigator's computer read, "I hunt the evil you pretend doesn't exist."

Investigators posted ads and chatted on more than two dozen websites, including, Craig's List and AOL chat rooms. They also exchanged text messages and emails with suspects, some of whom sent them explicit photographs.

Within five minutes of being online, each detective was receiving messages from five to eight people, Clearwater police Chief Anthony Holloway said. At one point, two detectives were in contact with more than 40 people.

"Every time we had one arrest," the chief said, "we had another one on deck."

Once a suspect arranged to meet with a minor, investigators contacted officers on patrol, who arrived at the location and made the arrest. Four meeting places in north Pinellas County were used.

Suspects were then brought back to the Clearwater police station, where they were interviewed and shown the transcripts of their online chats before being transferred to the Pinellas County Jail.

The suspects face several charges, including traveling to meet a minor, seduction of a child via the Internet or an electronic device, lewd and lascivious battery and sexual battery.

The suspects range from 19 to 65 years of age. Twenty-three are from Pinellas; others live in Hillsborough, Pasco and Manatee counties. One man drove from Miami to meet with a person he thought was a 15-year-old girl, while another rode his bike from Kenneth City to Clearwater.

Among those arrested is James Ronald King, 28, of Tampa. During his conversation with a detective posing as a mother with two daughters, ages 11 and 14, he said he'd had sex with a 4-year-old girl, authorities said.

After he emerged from a taxi at the prearranged meeting place, King was arrested. He is charged with seduction of a child using the Internet. The sheriff said Hills­borough authorities are investigating the sex claim.

Nicholas John Demasky, 28, drove from Hudson to have sex with a 14-year-old boy, police said. During an interview with detectives, Demasky said he had "urges" that he could not control, according to arrest affidavits. He was enrolled at the University of South Florida with plans to become an elementary school teacher, authorities said.

Michael Dempsey of Bradenton left his daughters, ages 10 and 12, unattended while he drove to Pinellas to meet with a 14-year-old girl, police said. Detectives had to call his wife, a nurse working the overnight shift, to tell her their daughters were home alone, the sheriff said.

Had there been more investigators available, Holloway said, the operation could have netted even more suspects.

Despite the arrests, other child predators linger online, Gualtieri said. He plans to conduct more stings in the future.

"All the activity that was on there two or three days ago is the same activity that was on there this morning," Gualtieri said. "We've got to make this stop."

Laura C. Morel can be reached at (727) 445-4157 or

. fast facts

Operation Home Alone

Suspects arrested in the four-day child predator sting are Eden Imran Emanuel Popo II, 26, Oldsmar; Mark Edward Holzworth, 26, Clearwater; Dean Laurence Ingram, 47, New Port Richey; Roger Morgan Palmer, 63, Tarpon Springs; Marcus Allen Coffey, 19, Tampa; Stanley Bruce Sandrowitz, 65, Clearwater; Shane Lee Power, 29, Largo; Demetrius Stephaun Cardwell, 20, Clearwater; Kevin Matthew Zalich, 39, Lutz; Minh Phuoc Nguyen, 24, Dunedin; Stephen Eric Virgil, 46, Tampa; David Brian Hubbard, 53, Seminole; John Jackson Finch, 25, Dunedin; Jeance Asdrub Colina-Enriquez, 20, Tampa;

Also: Luis R. Malave, 38, Clearwater; Yaser Abdelrahman Manm Alsalameh, 27, Tampa; Travis Labron Freeman, 25, Kenneth City; Nicholas Demasky, 28, Hudson; Russell Allen Edwards, 39, St. Petersburg; Eric A. Mendez, 29, St. Petersburg; Steven James Bandura, 22, Largo; David Alan Degener, 30, Tampa; Kevin Miller, 33, Clearwater; Michael H. Powers, 54, St. Petersburg;

Also: Clinton Bradley Sizemore, 38, Clearwater; Alexander Levi Blackwell, 35, Miami; Elliot Sheffield, 26, Clearwater; Robert Luis Scherriff, 60, Oldsmar; James Ronald King, 28, Tampa; Alberto Aguilar Jimenez, 28, Pinellas Park; George Francis Dadswell Jr., 57, St. Petersburg; Steven Knapp, 25, Dunedin; Jose Armando Guandique, 43, Clearwater; Rodney Glen Montgomery, 45, Bradenton; Michael R. Dempsey, 43, Bradenton

Authorities arrest 35 in Pinellas child predator sting 01/27/14 [Last modified: Monday, February 3, 2014 1:29pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Danny Rolling killed five in Gainesville 27 years ago this week


    The following story appeared in the St. Petersburg Times on October 26, 2006, the day after Danny Rollings was put to death. Also included are photos covering the period from the time of the murders to the day of Rollings execution.

    Rolling Executed

  2. Hernando commissioners propose tax-rate reduction as budget talks continue

    Local Government

    BROOKSVILLE — The typical budget battle between the Hernando County Commission and Sheriff Al Nienhuis has largely been averted this summer, except for a dust-up over how the sheriff has accounted for federal inmate money. But a minor skirmish did break out this week.

    Hernando County Commission Chairman Wayne Dukes has suggested a small rollback in the proposed property tax rate for the 2017-18 fiscal year and proposes that it be equally shared by the county's operations and the sheriff.
  3. Trigaux: As Florida seeks top 10 status as best business state, red flag rises on workforce


    In the eternal quest to appeal more to business than other states, Florida's managed to haul itself out of some pretty mediocre years. After scoring an impressive 8 among 50 states way back in 2007, Florida suffered horribly during and immediately after the recession. Its rank sank as low as No. 30 only four years ago, …

    Florida's trying to make strides in preparing its high school and college graduates for the rapidly changing skill sets of today's workforce. But the latest CNBC ranking of the best and worst states for business gave Florida poor marks for education, ranking No. 40 (tied with South Carolina for education) among the 50 states. Still, Florida ranked No. 12 overall in the best business states annual ranking. [Alan Berner/Seattle Times]
  4. Florida: White man who killed black person to be executed

    State Roundup

    GAINESVILLE — For the first time in state history, Florida is expecting to execute a white man for killing a black person — and it plans to do so with help of a drug that has never been used previously in any U.S. execution.

    This undated photo provided by the Florida Department of Corrections shows Mark Asay. If his final appeals are denied, Asay is to die by lethal injection after 6 p.m. Thursday. Asay was convicted by a jury of two racially motivated, premeditated murders in Jacksonville in 1987.  [Florida Department of Corrections via AP]
  5. Ex-TPD sergeant LaJoyce Houston takes plea deal in stolen tax refund case


    TAMPA — LaJoyce Houston, a former Tampa police sergeant accused with her husband in a federal tax refund fraud scheme, has agreed to plead guilty to receiving stolen government property, court records state.

    Former Tampa police officers Eric and LaJoyce Houston walk into the Sam Gibbons U.S. District Courthouse on Oct. 28, 2015, to face charges relating to stolen identity tax refund fraud. [SCOTT KEELER    |      TIMES