Man arrested for sexually abusing children

A Polk man faces charges that he molested two 2-year-old boys. There might be other victims.

Polk County sheriff's deputies have arrested a Bartow man for sexually abusing two toddlers. 

James Ballone has been charged for photographing their own molestation, Sheriff Grady Judd said.

Ballone was already in the Polk County jail after he was arrested during a July 2016 undercover child pornography investigation.

The new charges stem from follow-up investigation and forensic analysis on more than 50 electronic devices seized from Ballone's home during "Operation Child Shield III." Detectives discovered child pornography created by Ballone in his home involving two Polk County children (with whom he had access) who have been positively identified.

"He is a sexual deviant with a capital 'S,'" Judd said.

Outside of Ballone's home Wednesday, there were children's toys and a trampoline. Judd said he groomed his victims and parents. He had toys throughout his house for kids to play with, according to deputies.

Deputies say Ballone took pictures of himself molesting those 2-year-olds, and they know he had access to at least 23 children total.

Judd said Ballone ran a carpet cleaning business called J & K Cleaning. He would clean houses where young children lived, as well as day cares, and the sheriff said he would also hire young women who had young children.

Judd said he also had a secret room where he wouldn't let his wife go. When he was alone with kids, he’d change their diapers in there, according to Judd.

To make matters worse, investigators said he had a camera in his bedroom and a monitor in another room where he'd force kids to watch him and his wife having sex.

Judd calls Ballone repulsive.

"This guy has been a sexual predator his entire adult life, and what scares me to death is what about all the victims and all the children we don't know about," Judd said.

If you knew Ballone and suspect he might have victimized your child, you're asked to contact the Polk County Sheriff's office at (863) 298-6200 or toll-free 1-800-226-0344.

Ballone's neighbor said her children and grandchildren used to play at his house, and she never suspected anything. She said she took her grandchildren to the therapist, who determined they were not victims, but she's encouraging any potential victims or their families to come forward.

“If they feel like they know him and they've been there, get them checked,” she said. “Call the proper authorities. Have your children checked.”

Meanwhile, Ballone's wife denied to investigators knowing anything was going on.

However, Ballone does have a criminal history dating back to 1983. He was arrested for sexual abuse-related crimes in New York when he was in his 20s, but spent very little time in jail. 


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