HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – More than 20 men were arrested following an undercover operation targeting online sexual predators in Florida, according to deputies.
Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said the online chat investigation, known as “Operation Social Bust,” resulted in the arrest of 22 men who sought out sex with minors. Two of the men arrested were sex offenders.
Deputies say during the four-day operation, which ran from Sept. 29 through Oct. 2, detectives with HCSO focused on finding online sexual predators by posing as underage girls and boys on social media.
In September, an undercover detective posed as a 15-year-old girl came in contact with Flor-Adam Brandon Cruz, 24, on social media. Deputies say Cruz initiated a conversation and is a high-risk sex offender who is already on felony probation until 2032 for battery on a minor.
According to the sheriff’s office, Cruz sent text messages describing the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the girl. In his messages, he explained to the “teen” that he would help her gain experience with sex, Chronister said.
Detectives were able to arrest Cruz during the traffic stop in Brandon.
Many of the people detectives came in contact with during the operation traveled to Hillsborough County in an effort to carry out sexual acts, the sheriff’s office said.
Christian Ramirez, 37, a registered sex offender from Texas now living in Plant City, was arrested on Oct. 1. Deputies say Ramirez believed he was communicating with a 14-year-old boy online and drove to a location in Riverview to meet up with the teen for sex.
Darroll Roberts, 26, drove from Clearwater on Sept. 29 to meet a who he thought was a 13-year-old girl. according to HCSO. While chatting, Roberts told the girl he was 19. When taken into custody, Chronister said detectives found condoms in his pocket.
Michael Badillo-Toro, 31, solicited undercover detectives twice during the four-day operation. Deputies say Badillo-Toro was texting two different profiles of 15-year-old girls. In both cases, he described the sexual acts he wanted to perform on the girls.
The sheriff’s office said one of the 22 men arrested is facing a charge of human trafficking for soliciting paid sex with a minor.
Christopher Lalley, 33, offered $125 for a teenager to have sex with him, deputies say. He traveled from St. Petersburg to meet the 14-year-old girl. During his arrest, detectives found cash, condoms, and alcohol in his possession.
“Protecting children from online predators is a responsibility we take very seriously and a steadfast commitment of your sheriff’s office,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “For some of these men, this arrest is not the first time they’ve targeted minors online. This time, they just got caught.”
Chronister advised parents to be mindful of what their children are doing online and to frequently monitor who they are talking to on social media.
“When it comes to children being online, there is no such thing as being overprotective,” said Chronister. “Take the necessary steps to educate your child to prevent these online predators from taking their innocence.”
Below is a photo slideshow of the 22 men arrested and what charges they are facing:
More headlines from CBS17.com:
- After nearly closing due to the pandemic, Raleigh costume shop seeing big Halloween business
- 8-year-old accidentally shot, killed inside NC home, police say
- As virus surges, Trump rallies keep packing in thousands
- Colorado man denied lottery winnings after missing deadline by 3 days
- Tracking the Tropics: Disturbance has 80% chance of developing over the Caribbean
For more stories like this that matter to you, click here to download the CBS 17 News app for free.
Watch live newscasts, get breaking news and sign up for push alerts – download now