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PCSO News Release

Media Contact:
Eleazer, Carrie

Public Information Officer 
News Date: 4/5/2016 

 PCSO Undercover Detectives Arrest 18 Suspects During "Operation April's Fools" 


In an undisclosed location in Polk County, beginning on Tuesday, March 29, through Monday, April 4, 2016, Polk County Sheriff's undercover detectives, along with detectives and investigators from other agencies, conducted a week-long undercover investigation targeting online child predators and arrested 18 suspects. 

"Operation April's Fools" included detectives and agents from the following agencies: Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE); Osceola County S.O.; Seminole County S.O.; Pinellas County S.O.; Manatee County S.O.; Orange County S.O.; Lee County S.O.; Lakeland P.D.; Sanford P.D.; Bradenton P.D.; Sarasota P.D.; Orlando P.D.; working in conjunction with members of the State Attorney's Office along with Attorney General Pam Bondi's Office of Statewide Prosecution.   

"This is why we are proactive and conduct operations like this one. We have to search out these predators before they get to our children. Any child with a social media device means a predator has access to that child. Even more importantly, parents need to work with us to protect them." - Sheriff Grady Judd

During the operation, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads or profiles on various social media platforms, websites, and mobile phone applications, posing as children, or as custodians of children. Despite the repeated warnings and media coverage of past operations, numerous men responded to the ads and then proceeded to chat online, email, text, and talk on the phone with the undercover detectives who posed as children or custodians of children online. Some of the detectives responded to profiles and online ads. The suspects solicited who they thought were children as young as 13 years old for sex acts; two suspects solicited who they thought was the father of a 10-year-old girl to have sex with her. Some suspects sent pornographic pictures of themselves, and some asked for nude photos of the children to be sent to them. Several of the men drove to the house to follow through with the promises made online to engage in sexual activity with the juveniles.  

The 18 suspects face a total of 103 charges (97 felonies, 6 misdemeanors) which range from: Attempted Lewd Battery, Use of Computer to Seduce a Child, Transmission of Harmful Material to Minor, Use of a Two-Way Communication Device to Commit a Felony, Traveling to Meet Minor, Possession of Firearm During Commission of Felony, Drug Possession, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. More charges are pending further investigation of these suspects' phones, computers, etc. 

Most of the suspects traveled to the undercover location or to another meeting place. Six suspects were from Polk County (Auburndale, Davenport, Haines City, Lake Alfred, and Lakeland). Other locations the suspects traveled from were:  

1 traveled from Collier County (Naples);

1 traveled from Lake County (Clermont);

1 traveled from Osceola County (Celebration);

4 traveled from Orange County (Orlando, Winter Garden, Ocoee, Apopka);

1 traveled from St. Johns County (Ponte Vedra);

1 traveled from Seminole County (Lake Mary);

2 traveled from Volusia County (Deltona, Daytona Beach);

1 lives in Alaska (he was visiting Polk). 

Nine (9) suspects brought condoms, some brought candy, and some brought illegal narcotics to the undercover location. Five (5) told detectives they were married. The youngest suspect arrested was 19 years old, and the oldest suspect arrested was 60 years old - the average age of the suspects is 28 years old. Including the charges they face in this investigation, the suspects have a combined arrest history of 24 previous felonies and 24 previous misdemeanors.   

Those arrested, in order of arrest, are: 

1.    22-year-old Christopher John Smith, of Deltona; on March 29, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl in the 8th grade. While chatting online, Smith told the undercover detective he would show or teach her sex acts during each visit with her. He purchased condoms on the way to the undercover location. After his arrest, Smith told detectives "this was a stupid decision."  He told detectives he is single and works at Superior Lawn Care. His criminal history includes 6 prior felonies and 1 prior misdemeanor, including arrests for Burglary, and Petit Theft.   

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2) 

2.    19-year-old Arthur Joseph Nelson, of Orlando; on March 30, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. He sent her pictures of his genitals, and he bought condoms on the way to the undercover location. After his arrest, Nelson told detectives he knew the girl was 14 years old, he stopped at Walmart to buy condoms, he chatted with underage girls but this was the first time he has "done something like this" and he was "high" and "horny" and thought it seemed like a good idea. He told detectives he is single and works as a janitor at Discovery Cove theme park. During a search of his car, detectives found a glass pipe with marijuana residue in it. His criminal history includes 1 prior misdemeanor arrest Retail Theft.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2)
  • One count Transmit Harmful Materials to Minor (F-3)
  • One count Possession of Paraphernalia (M-1) 

3.    26-year-old Jeffrey Erich Binder, of Winter Garden; on March 30, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. While chatting online and texting, Binder told the undercover detective he wanted to do "everything" sexual with her. He purchased and brought condoms to the undercover location. After his arrest, Binder told detectives "now I gotta tell my work and family that I got arrested for soliciting a 14-year-old for sex."  He told detectives he is single and works as a security guard at Walt Disney World - his uniform was in his car. His criminal history includes 1 prior misdemeanor arrest for Battery - Domestic Violence.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2) 

4.    21-year-old Michael Fernandez, of Ocoee; on March 30, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 10-year-old girl. He communicated with an undercover detective who was posing as a 10-year-old girl's father and said, "I like em young" and "I have a sis she 8 but haven't done nothing yet." After his arrest, Fernandez told detectives he met the father on Craigslist and communicated with him on a computer at the library and on his iPhone, and arranged to meet him and the daughter, who he claimed he thought was 16 years old despite the chat conversations between the two that clearly stated the girl was 10 years old. He said he wanted to act out sexual fantasies with the juvenile. He told detectives he is single and a self-employed car washer. During a search of his car, detectives found marijuana. His criminal history includes 1 prior misdemeanor arrest for Resisting Arrest. 

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2)
  • One count Possession of Marijuana (M-1) 

5.    20-year-old Michael Dean Thompson, of Ponte Vedra; on March 30, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. He told the girl he was 18 years old, and he would make sure her first time was the best. After his arrest, Thompson told detectives he did not think she was really 14 but admitted she did tell him her age on multiple occasions. He told detectives he is single and works at Publix.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child & Misrepresent Age (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2) 

6.    28-year-old Jerin Jolly James, of Celebration; on March 30, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. James brought condoms to the undercover location. After his arrest, he told detectives he wanted to talk to the girl in person and tell her how wrong talking with men online about sex was, and that he uses condoms with his wife. He told his wife he was going to 7-Eleven and instead drove to the undercover location. He told detectives he is married and works as a technician at Florida Hospital in Orlando.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child & Misrepresent Age (F-2)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2) 

7.    26-year-old Alejandro Pineda, of Haines City; on March 30, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Pineda sent the girl a photo of male genitalia, and brought condoms to the undercover location. After his arrest, he told detectives he was embarrassed and disgusted by what he did, admitted that he should have stopped talking to her, and that he told her he would bring condoms so she wouldn't get pregnant. He told detectives he is married and works in pool construction..  

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child & Misrepresent Age (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Transmission of Material Harmful to Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-2) 

8.    60-year-old Howard Bishop III, of Lake Alfred; on March 31, 2016, he arranged to meet with who he thought was the father of a 10-year-old girl. Bishop chatted online with the undercover detective posing as the girl's father, and told the detective he was "very much into nudism and quality family fun; I am very open minded and up for anything." He went into detail about the sexual activities in which he wanted to participate with the 10-year-old, and implied he had done sexual things with a 10-year-old girl prior to these conversations. After his arrest, Bishop told detectives the charges wouldn't stick because the detective told him during the chats that he was not a law enforcement officer. He had a bag of candy in his car that he brought for the "girl." Detectives continue to investigate any prior sexual abuse against juveniles with whom he had contact. He told detectives he is single.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child & Misrepresent Age (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Solicit Parent or Guardian (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Sexual Battery on a Minor (F-1) 

9.    20-year-old Robert Michael Gordon, of Clermont; on April 1, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Gordon brought two condoms to the undercover location. He told detectives he is single and is a football coach at Central Florida Christian Academy, and a produce clerk at Publix.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3) 

10.  32-year-old Mahesh Radhakrishnan, of Lake Mary; on April 1, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. During conversations with the undercover detective, Radhakrishnan asked the "girl" to take a shower and have her hair wet before he arrived. He also told her that since she was 14 years old and too young to drive, he would come pick her up and take her to a hotel or to his house. More than once, he told her to delete the text messages between them. He had a bag containing condoms and sex toys in his vehicle. He told detectives he is married, and his wife and newborn baby are in India. He told detectives he is a computer program director.  

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3) 

11.  28-year-old Preston Lee Bousquet, of Daytona Beach; on April 1, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. During conversations with the undercover detective, Bousquet told the "girl" about the different sexual positions he wanted to teach her. He purchased condoms on the way to the undercover location. During a search of his vehicle, detectives found marijuana. He told detectives he is married, and his wife is out of the country.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3)
  • One count Possession of Marijuana (M-1)
  • One count Possession of Paraphernalia (M-1) 

12.  26-year-old Tyler James Knight, of Davenport; on April 2, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. During conversations with the undercover detective, Knight asked the "boy" if he could sneak out and meet him after his parents go to bed. He told detectives he is single, and he receives $733/month in Social Security benefits, and $150/month food stamps. His criminal history includes 2 prior felonies and 2 prior misdemeanors, including out-of-state arrests for Assault, Domestic Abuse, False Imprisonment, and False Report of a Crime.   

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3) 

13.  24-year-old Pedro Emilio Portillo, of Apopka; on April 2, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 13-year-old girl. During conversations with the undercover detective, Portillo asked the "girl" if he could sneak into her room, and said he would bring condoms. On the way to the undercover location, Portillo stopped at the store and bought condoms and Skittles for the "girl." He told detectives he is single and works at Mullinax Ford as a manager.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3) 

14.  22-year-old Samuel Orlin Hightower, of Anchorage, Alaska; on April 3, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 13-year-old boy. During conversations with the undercover detective, in addition to discussing sex, Hightower asked the "boy" if he smoked cigarettes or did "coke" and asked if he wanted to try it. He sent three photos of his genitalia to the "boy." Hightower walked to Cracker Barrel near his hotel in Davenport to meet with the "boy." Detectives found cocaine and a hallucinogen in his wallet. He told detectives he is single. His criminal history includes 4 prior misdemeanors.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • Three counts Transmission of Material Harmful to Minor (F-3)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3)
  • One count Possession Cocaine (F-3)
  • One count Possession of Lysergic Acid Diethylamide (F-3)
  • Two counts Possession Paraphernalia (M-1) 

15.  19-year-old Joshua Dean Southerland, of Davenport; on April 3, 2016, he arrived at the undercover location to have sexual intercourse with who he believed to be a 12-year-old girl. Southerland told the "girl" what he wanted to do to her and what he wanted her to do to him. He told detectives he is single.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two -Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Attempted Lewd Battery (F-3) 

16.  33-year-old Larry Alfred Treharn, Jr., of Naples; on April 3, 2016, he arrived near the undercover location to meet with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Treharn chatted with several other undercover personas during the operation. Detectives found a loaded handgun in his car. He told detectives he is married and works as an electrician's apprentice. His criminal history includes 5 prior felonies and 2 prior misdemeanors, including arrests for Attempted First Degree Murder, Arson, Resisting Arrest, Possession of Destructive Device, DWLSR (Habitual), and FTA.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • One count Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • One count Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)
  • One count Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
  • One count Transmission of Material Harmful to Minor (F-3)
  • One count Lewd/Lascivious Conduct (F-2)
  • One count Use of Firearm During Felony (F-2)
  • One count DWLSR (M-2)
  • One count Loitering/Prowling (M-2) 

17.  59-year-old Keith Hartford Ingles, of Lakeland; on April 4, 2016, detectives issued a warrant for his arrest. He has been chatting online since January 2016 with an undercover detective who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. Ingles instructed the "girl" on how to commit lewd acts and solicited her several times. He told her nearly every day to delete their text messages so she wouldn't get caught by her mother. He was taken into custody without incident. He told detectives he was a firefighter for Polk County Fire Rescue for eight years. He currently is a mechanic.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Four counts Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • Four counts Use of Computer to Seduce Child (F-3)

18.  24-year-old Brantley Ashton Thompson, of Auburndale; on April 4, 2016, detectives issued a warrant for his arrest, and he was taken into custody on April 5, 2016. During the operation, he chatted with two different undercover detectives, both of whom he believed to be a 14-year-old girls. Thompson sent both "girls" photos of his genitalia. His criminal history includes 11 previous felonies and 13 previous misdemeanors.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Seven counts Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
  • Seven counts Transmission of Material Harmful to Minor (F-3)