After a year-long investigation, WTSP, a CBS affiliate in Tampa Bay, Florida, has uncovered an alarming pattern of police trying to entrap innocent adults in sex crimes. The stings follow the basic pattern familiar to anyone who has seen To Catch a Predator, except "many of the men whose mugshots have been paraded out by local sheriffs in made-for-TV press conferences were not seeking to meet children online. Instead, they were minding their own business, looking for other adults, when detectives started to groom and convince them to break the law."
You're probably thinking, Wait a minute, I'd run from underage encounters. How could men who were really seeking adult sex partners be groomed to break the law?
According to the 10 News investigation, police officers used the following tactics:
- "Sometimes, the officers would act as an interested adult with a teenage 'sister' who was also interested. Even though many of the men had no interest in the underage decoys, if they traveled to meet the adult, they were arrested as a 'sexual predator' and charged with 'traveling to meet a minor.'"
"In the case of a 27-year-old Cape Coral man ... deputies arrested him even though he didn't even travel to meet a child for sex. Law enforcement officers responded to the man's legal 'casual encounters' Craigslist ad, pretending to be a 14-year-old girl, even though the ad said, 'age for all women must be 18+ no one under email me plz.' The man repeatedly told the undercover detectives that he was 'not OK' with meeting up with an underage girl, but because he didn't immediately end the conversation, he was arrested for utilizing his phone to solicit a sexual act from a child. Detectives went to his house and arrested him as a sexual predator of children."
A 21-year-old "responded to a DateHookup.com ad posted of an 18-year-old woman. The officer ... started exchanging messages with the man when he asked her to a movie. The officer wrote, 'are you Ok with me being under 18?' The 21-year-old continued the conversation. Following more exchanged messages and texts, the detective later added that 'she' was about to turn 16, the age of consent in Florida. As the two continued to swap texts, the man said 'I don't want to have sex, is that OK?' But the detective, who repeatedly rejected the man's interest in a possible relationship, kept pushing sex and threatened to call off their meeting. When the man finally indicated he would have sex, police had enough to charge him ... "