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Operation Grim Reaper: Undercover Internet crimes operation leads to 22 arrests in Citrus County

10:38 AM, Oct 20, 2010   |    comments
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Video: Operation Grim Reaper nets 22 arrests

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Lecanto, Florida - Deputies say nearly two dozen men drove to Citrus County for one reason: to have sex with a child.

The suspected sex offenders came from all around the Bay area, including Lakeland, Lutz, Tampa, Clearwater, Brandon, and Oldsmar.

Disguised as 12 to 14 year old children, deputies say they logged 700 hours of chat time as they tried to lure sexual predators into a Citrus County home.

See the dramatic take-down video of suspected sex offenders.

Twenty-two took the bait and 22 got caught.  They are men in their early 20's to late 40's.  Their professions range from a substitute teacher to an engineer with Progress Energy.  Gerald White of Bushnell is a youth minister.  Justin Morgan of Ocala is a firefighter for Marion County.

Another man arrested was a Mr. Glen Beck, but is of no relation to the conservative radio and Fox News personality.

Mug Shot Gallery: Arrest pictures from Operation Grim Reaper

"As a sheriff, very seldom do we have the opportunity to stand in front of you and say we saved 22 young people," said Sheriff Jeff Dawsy.

Deputies say these sexual predators who scoured websites with chat rooms, like Yahoo and AOL looking to have sex with kids.

Even though they denied that intention when they encountered armed deputies at the Citrus County home instead of helpless children.

One suspect told deputies he came to the house to "talk her out of it" even though he asked her to buy condoms before he got there.

Deputies didn't buy that story or ones similar as they sent the suspects to the slammer.  Dubbed "Operation Grim Reaper" for Halloween, deputies say it was scarily successful.

Sheriff Dawsy says he has many more tricks for sexual predators trolling for treats.

"This particular enforcement action is going on the road and we may be coming to a town near you.  You just don't happen to know when we're coming," warned Dawsy.

Deputies confiscated dozens of computers, cameras and one gun related to this case.

In the next couple of weeks, Florida Sheriff's Task Force is expected to roll out a brand new program to catch even more on-line predators.

The charges the suspects face are: Use of the Internet to Seduce, Solicit, Lure, or Entice a Child to Engage in an Unlawful Sexual Act; Traveling to Meet a Minor to Engage in Unlawful Sexual Activity with a Child; Lewd and Lascivious Exhibition in the Presence of a Child; Transmitting Harmful Material to a Minor.

Erica Pitzi, 10 News Reporter

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