An undercover operation in Florida led to the arrests of 13 men who were accused of wanting to “sexually abuse, groom” children. Among those arrested in the sting operation were a Disney employee and an IT guy who is responsible for installing systems at schools to protect children from online sexual predators.
The Polk County sheriff’s office engaged in the weeklong “Operation Cyber Guardian II.” The sting operation featured detectives posing as children on social media platforms, mobile apps, and online dating sites to expose sexual predators who prey on minors. The undercover operation had assistance from officers with the police departments of Auburndale, Bartow, Davenport, and Tampa, as well as the Hernando County sheriff’s office, Orange County sheriff’s office, and Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
“The suspects communicated with and solicited who they thought were children online,” the Polk County sheriff’s office said in a press release. “Three of the suspects believed they were speaking with a parent or guardian of a child who wanted to teach their ‘child’ to have sex or arranging for the minor to have sex with the suspect.”
There were eight men who traveled to locations in Polk County to “meet who they thought were children, to sexually batter them.”
Juan Miguel Diaz, 35, went to a location to have sex with someone who he believed was a 14-year-old girl, according to police. He was arrested by police and charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex, soliciting a guardian for sex with a minor, use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony, and attempted lewd battery.
“He told detectives he was employed by Linewize Limited as a service technician who installs firewalls and internet safety programs on computers in elementary, middle, and high schools to protect students from accessing inappropriate websites and online predators,” the Polk County sheriff’s office said.
John DeSarli Jr., 39, communicated with a detective posing as a 14-year-old girl on social media, according to police. When he was told the age of the supposed minor and asked if he approved, he purportedly replied, “Yes love. Let’s make it happen.”
The Polk County sheriff’s office said he was arrested at an undercover location. Police said they found cocaine, heroin, and drug paraphernalia in his vehicle. He was charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex, use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony, attempted lewd battery, possession of cocaine, possession of heroin, possession of drug paraphernalia, and two counts of transmitting harmful material to a minor.
Joshua Cummins, 28, allegedly interacted online with an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl. He allegedly said he wanted to play a game with her and the winner would get a sex act performed on them.
When he attempted to meet the minor, he was arrested by police. Cummins faces charges of traveling to meet a minor for sex, use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony, and attempted lewd battery.
Cummins told detectives he worked for a construction subcontractor building a new roller coaster at Walt Disney World in Orlando.
Kevin Sanders, 42, reportedly interacted with a detective posing as a 13-year-old girl on social media. Police said he described the sex acts he wanted to perform on the child, but warned the “girl” they would “have to be careful” because she was underage.
“Sanders has engaged online with undercover detectives he believed to be children for several years, always ending his communication before actually traveling to meet the person he believed was a minor for sex,” the sheriff’s office said. “During this investigation, detectives were able to identify Sanders and obtained a warrant for his arrest.”
On September 7, Sanders was arrested by detectives at his place of employment – the Walt Disney Company.
Sanders allegedly confessed to detectives that he engaged in sexual conversations with people he believed to be minors. He admitted that he had reached out to minors online for years and that interacting with children online was his “addiction,” according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Sanders reportedly informed police that he is a roving IT support specialist at Disney. He allegedly is married with two young children.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said, “We will continue to conduct proactive operations like this to search out these evil predators before they get to our children.”
“We are going hold them criminally accountable for their attempts to sexually abuse, groom, and corrupt our children,” Judd added.
“Parents, please get all in your child’s business when it comes to their use of electronic devices that gives them access to online gaming, mobile applications, texting, or the internet,” he advised parents. “Check their devices regularly and ensure parental controls are enabled to keep men like these away from your kids.”
During a press conference regarding “Operation Cyber Guardian II,” Judd said, “These are the people who are online trying to groom your children. And they go to areas where you would find children. They go to gaming sites, they go to social apps that attract young children, and they hang out … in public parks.”
Last week, the Polk County sheriff’s office arrested 160 people in a sting operation targeting human trafficking. Among those arrested were a Disney employee, a corrections officer, a former deputy police chief, and teachers.
You can watch the entire Polk County sheriff’s office press conference on the undercover operation below.
News Conference: Operation Cyber Guardian 2