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Four arrested in St. Pete human trafficking sting

The men face charges including promotion of a sexual performance by a child, transmission of material harmful to minors and child neglect.
St. Petersburg police arrested Nicholas Allen Spade, Michael J. Schaffer, Shawn William Eckhoff and Robert Michael Berry during a two-day human trafficking sting. [Pinellas County Sheriff's Office]

ST. PETERSBURG — Police arrested four men for a range of child sex crimes following a two-day human trafficking operation.

According to the St. Petersburg Police Department, the men communicated online with undercover detectives who they believed to be children or custodians of children. The men were arrested Feb. 25 and Feb. 26.

They are: Michael J. Schaffer, 54, of Gulfport; Robert Michael Berry, 37, of St. Petersburg; Nicholas Allen Spade, 27, of Gibsonton; and Shawn William Eckhoff, 42, of Gulfport.

Schaffer sent an explicit photo to a detective he thought was a 14-year-old boy using the dating app Grindr, according to his arrest report. Schaffer asked for a photo in return. The detective, acting as the boy, told Schaffer that he didn’t have any nude pictures to send back. Schaffer then instructed him to take one with his phone camera, the report says.

Related: St. Pete police to lead Tampa Bay human trafficking task force

He faces charges of promotion of a sexual performance by a child, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and transmission of harmful material to a minor. He was booked into the Pinellas County jail on $17,000 bail.

Berry communicated with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old girl, his arrest report says. They made arrangements to meet at a motel to have sex. To make the meeting, Berry left three children that he was supervising home alone, according to the report. The children were ages 4, 5 and 7.

He was arrested on one count of traveling to meet a minor, one count of unlawful use of a two-way communication device and three counts of child neglect. He was booked into jail in lieu of $30,000 bail.

Eckhoff made contact with a detective he thought was the custodian of a 14-year-old, according to his arrest report. Through text messages and phone calls, he said he wanted to perform sexual acts on the child. He said he would pay the custodian $100 cash to perform the sexual acts, then drove to the agreed location.

There, the detective arrested him on charges of traveling to meet a minor, prostitution, unlawful use of a two-way communications device and certain use of computer services or devices prohibited. He was booked into jail on $17,250 bail.

Spade also had contact with someone he thought was the custodian of a 14-year-old child and told them he wanted to perform sexual acts on the child, according to his arrest report. He agreed to meet with the custodian and pay $150 for access to the child.

He traveled to the agreed location and offered the undercover detective payment for an hour with the child “knowing the child would be engaging in a commercial sex act,” the report says. He had $210 cash in his pocket.

He faces charges of human trafficking, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, certain use of computer services or devices prohibited and traveling to meet a minor. He was booked into jail in lieu of $67,000 bail.

All four men were released from jail after paying bail.

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