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Crime & Courts

Polk sting targets child sex predators, nets 41 arrests


Published:   |   Updated: June 17, 2013 at 04:23 PM

A tax accountant who serves as a church deacon, a youth football coach, a Disney World costume designer and a Dunedin retiree were among 41 people arrested during a weeklong Polk County sting targeting online sexual predators, officials said.

Those arrested included suspects from Wisconsin, Georgia and Alabama who investigators said traveled to a Polk undercover location to have sex with who they thought were 13- to 15-year-old boys and girls, the sheriff's office said.

The 40 men and one woman responded to ads and chatted with undercover investigators on social media sites, including Backpage and Craigslist. The operation ended Sunday.

Suspects came from a variety of social and economic backgrounds. Eleven admitted they were married. They ranged in age from 65-year-old Floyd Edward Weir, of Dunedin, to 18-year-old Erin Vickers, who accompanied her 35-year-old boyfriend to meet with a 14-year-old girl, deputies said.

Weir, of 186 Skylock Drive W., brought sex toys, pillows and lubricant to an expected meeting with a 14-year-old, deputies said. He faces charges of traveling to meet a minor, use of computer to solicit a child, unlawful use of two-way communication device and attempted lewd battery.

David C. Ullman, 54, is a partner with the Lake Wales accounting firm Bunting, Tripp and Ingley. Deputies said Ullman contacted a detective posing as a teenage girl and solicited a sex act. His firm's website says Ullman is director and treasurer for the Polk County Education Foundation, a trustee for the Lake Wales Charter School Board, and a deacon at Lake Wales Presbyterian Church.

James Walker, 46, a Disney World costumer's assistant from Davenport, was cautious in his attempts to meet a 15-year-old boy for sex, deputies said. During a chat with an undercover detective, he said he "had to be careful" because he knew what he was doing was illegal, deputies said. He also left the undercover location the first night of the sting because he saw several deputies vehicles in the area working another case, deputies said.

According to deputies, Warrington Lee Cox Jr., a 26-year-old married father from Bartow, volunteers as a youth football coach in Auburndale, working with ages 8 to 10. Detectives said he drove to the undercover location to have sex with a 15-year-old girl.

Thirteen suspects were from Polk County and another 28 from other Florida locations.

Two drove from Hillsborough County, including Howard Van Huddleston, of 1408 Vinetree Drive in Brandon, deputies said. Van Huddleston, a laborer with a Seffner RV dealership, was charged with traveling to meet a minor, attempted lewd battery, unlawful use of a two-way communication device and poessession of marijuana.

Stephen J. Kirkis, a 26-year-old medical technician from Conyers, Ga., was in Tampa on business before driving to the undercover location to have sex with a 14-year-old, deputies said.

Other suspects included a bank teller, a graduate from a law enforcement academy, a contracted electrician for Orlando International Airport, an audio-visual technician, a painter, mechanics and students.

"Make no mistake; we will continue to make protecting our children our number one priority," Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said. "We will continue to conduct these investigations, and we will continue to arrest those who would travel to Polk County to harm children."




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