An eighth grade teacher, a swim coach, and a professional golfer are just a couple of the 40 suspects arrested by Florida officials who were conducting an undercover child sex networking sting.
A January 8-16 investigation called “Operation Red Cheeks” was run by officials from the Osceola County Sherriff. The authorities were able to arrest the 40 individuals for Internet-based sex crimes during those dates.
A professional golfer, Stephen Wesley Thomas, has made 44 appearances on the PGA tour. He is the highest profile arrested in the sting. Thomas allegedly told officers that he thought he was speaking with a woman who was arranging sex with her 13-year-old daughter.
The head coach of Gainesville’s Gator Swim Club, which is not affiliated with the University of Florida, Bryan Woodward, was also arrested in the sting. The organization relieved Woodward of his duties with the club after the sting.
From the police statement:
“During the operation, undercover detectives from the agencies listed, posed as juveniles or the parent or guardian of a juvenile to talk with individuals in chat rooms and instant messaging programs on the Internet. Suspects would travel to an undercover house or secondary meeting location located in Osceola County with the purpose of having sex with a child.”
Some of the other suspects arrested in the sting include a 70-year-old retired beekeeper, a construction worker, eight college students, an IT professional and a middle school math teacher from Manatee Academy in Port St. Lucie.
The charges filed in the sting include travel to seduce a child and commit sex acts, use of a computer to solicit a child for sex, and transmitting harmful images of a minor.