Operation Green Shepherd: 43 arrested in undercover child sex sting operation

4:30 PM, Sep 17, 2012   |    comments
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Video: 43 arrested in undercover child sex sting


Bradenton, Florida -- A week-long undercover sting in Manatee County has netted 43 men, each accused of wanting to have sex with a child.

Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube says the arrests were part of Operation Green Shepherd, an online sting where undercover detectives posed as children or in some cases parents.

The men the undercover detectives met online were later arrested when they went to a local home thinking they were going to meet a child.

"We don't want (adults having sex with kids) going on, nor does any other county," Steube told reporters while announcing the details of the operation on Monday.

The ages of those arrested ranged from 18 to 68 years old. The sheriff says the bottom line is the men wanted to do horrible things to young child.

"I'll just say without using explicit words, it's kind of like the prostitution sting we do out on the street, what kind of sex act are you looking for and what are you willing to do for it."

In some instances, video shows when the men arrived to find undercover detectives they took off on foot only to be chased down a short distance later. In other instances, the men played dumb, denying they were there to commit a crime.

Among those arrested was 43-year-old Eugene Marshall, a sexual predator already on probation. Also taken into custody was 35-year-old Jeremy Wert, a St. Petersburg firefighter.

Wert has now resigned after 10 years with the city.

St. Petersburg Fire Chief James Large called Wert a "great" employee when contacted by 10 News but added, "I'm glad this came to light... because the main thing we have to have is the public's trust."

Steube says additional arrests are still possible, but he hopes the message is now out that this type of behavior will not be tolerated in Manatee County.

"If we could do this operation every day of the week we'd be pulling them in here until the word got around that the Manatee County Sheriff's Office was doing it," the sheriff said.

All 43 men have been booked into the county jail on felony charges.

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