TAMPA — Twenty-two men face charges after they sought sex with underage boys and girls who turned out to be Hillsborough sheriff’s detectives, deputies said.
The four-day operation dubbed “Social Bust” began on Sept. 29 with detectives posing as teenage girls and boys using fake social media accounts. They arrested 22 men who sought to have sex with them, Sheriff Chad Chronister said at a news conference Thursday.
“These sleazy criminals use social media to chat with kids in an attempt to lure them into having sex,” Chronister said.
One suspect, 24-year-old Flor-Adam Brandon Cruz, was on felony probation for lewd and lascivious battery on a minor when he initiated a conversation with what he thought was a 15-year-old girl, according to the Sheriff’s Office.
Another man, 31-year-old Michael Badillo-Toro, solicited detectives twice during the operation, thinking they were 15-year-old girls, deputies said.
Most of the suspects were charged with a trio of crimes — the use of computer services or devices to solicit certain illegal acts, transmission of harmful material to a minor and unlawful use of two-way communication device.
A third suspect, 33-year-old Christopher Lalley, offered $125 to a detective he thought was a 15-year-old child, deputies said. Lalley drove from St. Petersburg and arrived with the cash and condoms in his pocket. Because he arranged to pay for sex, he also faces a human trafficking charge, Chronister said.
The other suspects arrested in the operation are Noelvis Jimenez Carvajal, 33; Fabian Gomez, 33; Walter Harrington, 37; Richard Hatcher, 27; William Heims, 25; James Houtsch, 45; Rashid Ibrahim, 40; Leif Kemp, 33; Zachary Lebo, 35; Luis Morales-Rivera, 27; Adam Murray, 33; Paul Perakslis, 29; Christian Ramirez, 37; Joseph Reynolds, 45; Darroll Roberts, 26; Jose Humberto Romero, 25; Zachary Stitz, 33; Edwin Torres, 37; and George Youngs, 60.
Chronister urged parents to closely monitor what their children are doing and who they’re talking to on the internet.
“When it comes to children being online, there is no such thing as being too protective as a parent,” he said.