DEFUNIAK SPRINGS — Police arrested 10 area men, including an Ebro resident, on charges of intent to have sexual relations with a minor, according to a news release from the Walton County Sheriff’s Office.
The Walton County Sheriff’s Office, along with other members of the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, conducted an operation called “Operation Turkey Hunt” to take all violators into custody who traveled from multiple locations to Walton County with the intent to have sexual relations with a minor.
Arrested in the sting operation were: John Reyes, 42, of Mobile, Ala.; Ren Greco, 25, of Lynn Haven; Mohammed Alhamdy, 30, of Fort Walton Beach; Scott Newbern, 51, of Sandestin, (originally from Brunswick, Ga., but was attending a conference); Charles Maines, 21, of Ebro; Jerry Hartman, 40, of Fort Rucker, Ala.; William Moodie, 24, of Sandestin; Timothy Coffey, 39, of Fort Walton Beach; Melvin Andrews, 24, of Fort Walton Beach; and Nick Walker, 22, of Freeport.
“We want those individuals who would prey on our children to be afraid of what is waiting behind the door for them,” Sheriff Mike Adkinson said. “I want them to understand that when it comes to protecting our children we are the boogeyman waiting to get them."
The operation ran from Nov. 13 until Monday, Nov. 18. During the course of the operation, numerous posts were placed on several social networking sites. The undercover profiles that were used online were mostly of juvenile females and males with the approximate age of 12- to 13-years-old.
The online advertisements had been posted to target suspects who engage in sexual activities with underage minors within the State of Florida.
Ten individuals responded to online advertisements through the use of email and electronic communications.
According to police, during conversations between some of the suspects and the undercover officer, who was posing as a 12-year-old female’s mother, the suspects solicited the “mother” to engage in sexual activity with the 12-year-old female.
Other conversations consisted of the suspect engaging in conversations with the undercover officer, posing as a 13-year-old male, and the suspect solicited the 13-year-old male to engage in sexual activity, according to police.
During the course of the conversations, the suspects obtained an address and upon arrival at the location the suspects were all taken into custody. The suspects’ ages ranged from early 20s to early 50s and occupations run the gamut from active duty military, steel worker, retail sales, unemployed and a preacher.
All suspects were booked at the Walton County Department of Corrections. Each suspect was issued a $1 million bond with the release conditions of no contact with minors and that they be required to wear an electronic tracking device, according to police.
To combat the online sexual exploitation of children, many hours were devoted to the planning and execution of this operation, Adkinson said. In the coming weeks, additional arrests could be made in connection with Operation Turkey Hunt.
In addition to the Walton County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, St Johns County Sheriff’s Office, Gainesville Police Department, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Pensacola Police Department, Bay County Sheriff’s Office, Tallahassee Police Department and Crestview Police Department all participated in the task force investigation.