More than three dozen men are under arrest after being busted in a child sex sting run by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
In the weeklong Operation Green Shepherd, detectives went online and set up meetings with the 43 defendants who were told they were going to have sex with a child under the age of 14 at an undercover residence in Manatee, the sheriff's office said. The defendants went to the residence believing they were meeting up with a juvenile for a sexual encounter.
The first arrest was made only five hours after the operation started.
"I think the point all the sheriffs in the state is trying to make is we're not going to condone this type of activity on our children in this state," said Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube. "If we could do this operation every day of the week, we'd be pulling them in here."
The suspects come from a range of backgrounds including one self-employed, a retiree, a mail clerk, welder, lawn care and a firefighter from St. Petersburg, Steube said.
The defendants were arrested on charges including travel to seduce, solicit or entice a child to commit sexual act, use of a computer to seduce, and solicit or entice a child to commit sexual act.
Some of the defendants were also charged with transmission of materials harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment, lewd and lascivious molestation, attempted capital sexual battery and possession of drugs.
One of the suspects, Eugene Marshal, 43, of Bradenton, is a registered sexual predator in Florida.
The investigation continues and additional arrests and charges forthcoming, the sheriff's office said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, Bradenton Police Department, and the sheriff's office from Sarasota, Polk, Lee and Lake counties assisted in the investigation.
Watch Operation Green Shepherd here on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EtXJMsrxb1o