22 men were arrested in an online chat investigation known as “Operation Social Bust” conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office.
“Protecting children from online predators is a responsibility we take very seriously and an unwavering commitment by your sheriff’s office,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister.
During the four-day operation, which ran from September 29 to October 2, Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office detectives focused on finding sexual predators online by posing as underage girls and boys on social media.
There were two sex offenders among those arrested.
In September, an undercover detective posing as a 15-year-old girl came into contact with Flor-Adam Brandon Cruz, 24, on social media when Cruz initiated a conversation. Cruz is a high-risk sex offender who is already on parole until 2032.
According to the sheriff’s office, Cruz sent text messages detailing the sexual acts he was attempting to perform on the girl. In his messages, he stated that he would help the teen gain experience with sex. Detectives arrested Cruz during a traffic obstruction in Brandon.
Christian Ramirez, 37, a registered Texas sex offender who now lives in Plant City, was arrested on October 1. Ramirez believed he communicated with a 14-year-old boy online and drove to a location in Riverview to meet with the teen for sex, the sheriff said.
Many of the detectives encountered during the operation traveled to Hillsborough County to engage in sexual acts.
According to MPs, Darroll Roberts drove out of Clearwater on September 29 to meet a 13-year-old girl. During the conversation, 26-year-old Roberts told the girl he was 19 years old. When he was taken into custody, detectives found condoms in his pocket.
“For some of these men, this arrest isn’t the first time they’ve approached minors online. This time they’ve just been caught,” said Sheriff Chronister.
Michael Badillo-Toro, 31, asked undercover detectives twice during the same four-day operation. Badillo-Toro wrote two separate youth profiles of 15-year-old girls, authorities said. In both cases he described the sexual acts he intended to perform on the girls.
“He thought he was lucky when one of the girls agreed to meet him, but instead of meeting a 15-year-old, he ended up in the arms of our undercover detectives,” said Sheriff Chronister.
One of the 22 people arrested is charged with trafficking in human beings for soliciting paid sex with a minor.
Christopher Lalley, 33, reportedly offered $ 125 for a teenager to have sex with. He traveled from St. Petersburg to meet the 14-year-old girl. During his arrest, detectives found cash, condoms and alcohol in his possession.
“We will continue to perform these covert operations and attack sexual predators lurking online,” said Sheriff Chronister. “Our efforts go beyond enforcement. Education is a critical part of our strategy. “
Sheriff Chronister advised parents to be careful what their children are doing online and frequently monitor who they talk to on social media.
“When it comes to having kids online, there is no undue protection,” said Sheriff Chronister. “Take the necessary steps to educate your child so these online predators do not go innocent.”