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Two Palm Coast men were arrested Monday in connection with “Operation Volusia Broad Band,” a Volusia County Sheriff’s Office-led cyber-sting operation that netted 23 arrests of offenders who used the Internet and other forms of technology to exploit children.
Richard Short, 23, of the S-section, and Kevin Stephens, 29, of the P-section, were both arrested on three charges related to the sting.
“Child exploitation is a problem that crosses all jurisdictional boundaries and socioeconomic backgrounds,” Volusia County Sheriff Ben Johnson said in a statement. “The arrests that were made in the past five days should be a wake-up call for all predators. Protecting children is our highest priority, and we’re going to continue to be aggressive and proactive in attacking exploitation whenever and wherever it occurs.”
During the operation, undercover law enforcement “chatters” posing as children — or in some cases, guardians of children — congregated in Internet chat rooms, social networks and various websites and waited to be approached by the suspects.
In every case, the offenders thought they were either communicating with someone 14 or younger or a child’s guardian. When the conversation turned to meeting the child for sex, the undercover operative made arrangements to rendezvous at a decoy house in Ormond Beach that had been wired with surveillance cameras to capture the encounters for evidentiary purposes.
While there were some additional criminal offenses, most of the defendants were charged with three felonies: use of a computer to seduce or solicit a child to engage in unlawful sexual conduct, traveling to meet a minor to engage in unlawful sexual conduct and unlawful use of a two-way communications device.
Some of the defendants were arrested after they thought they were arranging through a child’s mother, father or other relative to have sex with their children in order to teach them how to do it.
For those defendants, the first charge was "use of a computer to solicit a parent or guardian to consent to unlawful sexual conduct with a child."
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