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FL: Florida Cops Went to Absurd Lengths to Entrap Man Who Showed No Interest in Underage Sex

[reason.com – 10/21/19]

How do you catch a predator in Sarasota, Florida? You create one.

The Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) is going to “outrageous lengths” to make law-abiding lonely guys into sex offenders. That’s according to Noah Pransky, a fearless journalist who has been covering Florida’s addiction to entrapment for years.

In September, SCSO arrested 23 men for allegedly soliciting underage girls for sex. Pransky’s most recent piece in Florida Politics chronicles the elaborate back and forth between one of those men and a police officer pretending to be a young female. Pransky writes:

In one example from a 2017 operation, SCSO spent two days trying to seduce a 20-year-old man who showed no interest in having sex with a child. Detectives, who posted an ad for an 18-year-old woman on Tinder, matched with the young man and proceeded to swap “getting-to-know-you” texts for more than an hour; only then did detectives tell the man he was chatting with a 14-year-old girl, not an 18-year-old.

Undercover detectives continued to try and talk about sex with the man the next day; he again rebuffed the attempts, but continued the small talk because he indicated he was bored. Detectives then sent unsolicited, flirty photos to the man; a tactic that violates best practices and ethical standards for this type of stings.

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  1. td777

    It’s not just in Florida…similar thing happened to me, except when they tried to get me to expose myself on a web cam, I was a smart ass and basically said “you first.” Thanks to that, I’m a lifetime recipient of the “we know you’re not really dangerous but we’re gonna tell the public you are anyway” award.

  2. Peter

    I got caught in a sting like this and it resembles how the police got me. I was on an adult website looking for an escort the escort said she was in the hotel across the street from my office. It is literally a 2 min walk from the bank I worked at. We talked we agreed on a price they sent me nude pics when I got to the hotel they dropped the age to a 16 turning 17 years old in a week can I bring liquor I said no 4 times to sex then they called me said that they really needed help so me being stupid I said ok I will help you as soon as I knocked on the door I was tackled by no joke 30 to 40 cops and there was a TV show being filmed. The police lied on the police report and said I admitted to everything and that I said I was horny. I found the video on YouTube which showed I didn’t say any f that. My lawyer said it doesn’t matter that the police lied and that entrapment was a myth. The DA didn’t even proved the video in discovery. I ended up taking a plea deal because I have older parents and they need my help I was facing years in prison and they offered 90 days in jail and a misdemeanor 10 years sex offender registry and 3 years probation no classes and my fine was $150. I just tried to get off probation my new lawyer did a great job arguing my case but the DA just kept saying we made a deal your honor and why wasn’t this brought up in the first place. I was denied early termination of probation. My original lawyer has been under investigation from the bar since April 8th and I emailed the investigator like 2 weeks ago and all what he said was this is still an ongoing investigation hopefully I will have an answer for you soon thanks for your patients. These underage sex stings on adult websites which are made for people to meet up to have sex showed be off limits to cops. How is it even fair to say your an adult send nude pics take about sex ect then when you get to a location they say there underage? This is not saving any children this is just taking innocent people life away. I have lost 10 million dollars because of this case I lost my job my house everything. I am not a threat to anyone the police took 2 cell phones and my computer and found nothing I was just a lonely guy looking to get laid if I wanted minors there are plenty of places to find them I was on an adult website and I was looking for an adult.

  3. G4Change

    This guy should sue the snot out of those creeps!!! Unbelievable!!!

  4. Bill

    Is it illegal to do a reverse sting and entrap them in their own wrong doing?

    Like send an internal investigation from the feds? Let FBI sting the sting for a change.

    Yeah that sounds pretty preposterous…I know.

    Or how about a news agency setting them up for corruption?

    Probably doesn’t make sexy enough news for them…

    Imagine the news headlines:

    TO CATCH A PREDATOR OF IMAGINARY PREDATORS.

    Or…

    COPS CREATING SEX OFFENDERS WITH FAIRY DUST & BULLSH#T.

    Something like that.

    • Bill

      @Peter

      I’ve read your comments and I’m so sorry that you have gone through that. The losses that you have incurred in this entrapment is terrible and I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy-with the exception of LEO that partake in these stings so they can see for themselves how immoral and unethical these operations are.

      BTW which state were you in during that entrapment?

      • Peter

        @Bill

        I was in California, I swear I dont understand how it can be legal for the police to post on adult websites say they are an adult talk about sex ask for nude pics then drop the age on you to arrest you. We are guilty no matter what and its not fair. If I was a threat or was looking for minors wouldn’t my 2 cells phones and my computer have child pornography, had other conversations with minors? Like I tell everyone I wasn’t planning on going to jail I didn’t have time to delete anything so the cops went threw my phones and computer and found nothing.

    • Sunny

      @Bill – it would certainly be legal for the FBI to conduct an investigation, including a sting, into another law enforcement agency if the FBI believed there was misconduct. If anyone has been victimized by unethical or illegal law enforcement practices, there are several resources, including the DOJ:
      https://www.usa.gov/report-crime#item-35887

      Doing it yourself in the way you described would be illegal because you would be impersonating a law enforcement officer, so I would advise against it. Whenever someone on a dating app indicates they are under 18, I immediately block them. I even report the accounts because most dating apps don’t allow anyone under 18. It may sound mean but it’s the safest action for you and arguably for a kid who shouldn’t be using apps restricted to adults. If it’s a sting, you just caused the cops to have another fake profile deleted / banned. Before meeting anyone in person, I *always* ask them to send me a photo of their drivers license.

      @td777 – Keep in mind that law enforcement has been known to employ childish-looking adults and makeup on web cams (this was common on To Catch a Predator, which sometimes employed young women to pose as underage boys on cam and even in person). It has become commonplace for sting operations to use actual child porn to bait would-be offenders. The FBI even operated a child porn website earlier this year:
      https://news.bloomberglaw.com/us-law-week/okay-for-fbi-to-peddle-child-pornography-during-investigation

      Just like children are warned that the person on the other end of the internet could be a “predator,” adults should be warned that the person on the other end could be a child or adult pretending to be a child. The same advice applies in both situations – do what you can to verify their identity, if they are lying about who they are, report and block them, and if you meet, always do so in a public place.

      Other than asking to see their ID (99% of people don’t have any problem with this request and understand, especially if we met online), I will usually also ask leading questions to verify their age, while still sounding casual (questions about college, jobs, what car they drive, what they do in their spare time, what their friends are like, past relationships, their favorite drink, living situation, credit cards, etc.). Social media is your friend in this case – ask them for facebook, instagram, twitter, etc. You can learn so much about someone from social media. Take screen shots and document conversations, especially if someone lies about their age. Be your own “Big Brother.”

      I only meet new people in public where there are witnesses, and I prefer locations where I know we will be recorded like most any retail store (that way I have a solid alibi and can’t be falsely accused of anything). It may seem over the top, but this is your life on the line. Adults, especially men, are regularly targeted by these sting operations, and registrants are prime targets. It’s worth preparing yourself and developing simple habits so you can appropriately respond in these situations.

  5. Rob

    So messed up in many different ways. Cops send pictures of 14 year olds to catch a predators. Sounds like the cops have some CP pics in their arsenal? Isn’t that possession? Even if the picture is of an 18 year old…claiming it is a 14 year old makes that picture illegal…right?

  6. AC

    So…
    What else is new?

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