22 men arrested in Internet sting in Citrus County

Great job Citrus County!! I am glad to see that these types of operations are being conducted throughout the State of Florida. Although this is not a sex trafficking sting operation as there was no actual victim that was rescued. The Sheriff’s office used a decoy to set up dates with men(pedophiles). However, can this sting operation be linked to possible trafficking.yes, most definitely. What this shows is that in Citrus county ( as in many other counties throughout Fl) there is definitely a demand for sex with minors. If there is a demand, there will ultimately be a need for supply. With this being said, there is a need to become more aware of what is happening in Citrus County. People in that area need to become aware of the issue of human trafficking as there is a good chance that this is occurring in that part of Florida.


Twenty-two men were arrested after deputies said they came to Citrus County to meet underage girls for sex.

“This is the crime you never see,” Citrus County Sheriff Jeff Dawsy said. “This is the crime you may never hear of.”

Most of the men arrested in the operation are from the Bay area, but some came from outside of the area and even from outside of the state.

Detectives said the men believed they were meeting with girls between the ages of 12 and 14 years old. Some of the suspects have criminal histories, but many of them do not.

“A lot of them kept saying it over and over again,” said Lt. David DeCarlo, who assisted with the sting. “They lost their job. A lot of them said it’s the first time this ever happened.”

Some of the suspects have children of their own, detectives said.

“We have a volunteer minister up there,” Dawsy said. “We have a substitute teacher. We have a firefighter up there.”

Dawsy said the problem is much larger than many parents realized, and he urged them to keep close tabs on their children’s Internet habits.

He said the suspects used popular sites like Craigslist, AOL and Yahoo! Messenger in their attempts to solicit sex from underage girls.

“This task force saved 22 young people,” Dawsy said. “Twenty-two young people that would have been sexually assaulted.”

Man gets 20 years in Craigslist child sex trafficking

This is wonderful news. For those of you who may not know, during the Superbowl in Tampa, The FL Coalition Against Human Trafficking and KlaasKids Foundation did outreach for two days and three nights. Our volunteers found evidence of child sex trafficking happening in the area.We found ads on Craigslist from girls that were brought in from as far as Alaska.
Our teams were able to provide potential leads to law enforcement. The next year in Miami. FCAHT, KlaasKids Foundation as well as several other agencies got together and did outreach during the Superbowl in Miami.

Both events were successful and more leads were generated during the second event. I am proud to announce that FCAHT will be conducting this same type of outreach in Orlando this year. I am excited to see what will come from this years Tackle the Traffickers event.

TAMPA – A man convicted of child sex trafficking on Craigslist was sentenced this morning to 20 years in federal prison.

Manuel A. Walcott, 31, and his partner, Pasquale Holt, 25, used the “erotic services” ads on the popular website to offer a 14-year-old girl as a “Super Bowl Special” in 2009 when the football championship game was in Tampa.

Last month, under pressure from Congress and human rights advocates, Craigslist shut down its adult services section. State law enforcement officials wrote Congress in August stating that ads for prostitution, including those trafficking children, were rampant on the site.

Lawmakers and witnesses at a Congressional hearing last month said at least 100,000 minors are exploited by the commercial sex industry in the United States every year.

Walcott was convicted in July of two counts of child sex trafficking and one count of selling or buying a child. Under sentencing guidelines, he faced between 30 years and life in prison.

But Holt, who pleaded guilty, faces about 10 years in prison under the guidelines.

Walcott’s lawyer, Mark O’Brien, argued that Holt was “very clearly the pimp, for lack of a better word.” Given Holt’s likely sentence, O’Brien argued, a 15-year sentence would be reasonable for Walcott.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Shauna Hale disputed that Holt was the leader.

“They were acting together,” she said. “It was Manuel Walcott who was leading Pasquale Holt … down this track.”

“As I recall,” said U.S. District Judge Richard A. Lazzara, “Mr. Holt was intimately involved in this criminal activity. The evidence suggested that he may have been the one who orchestrated it.”

Lazzara said he “will never penalize a defendant because he or she exercised their right, their constitutional right, to a trial by jury.” He said he would vary from the guidelines to avoid a large disparity between sentences for similar defendants in the same crime.

After serving his prison term, Walcott will be on probation for life.

The case was investigated by a law enforcement task force targeting child sex traffickers.

As Tampa was gearing up to host the Super Bowl, undercover agents combed Craigslist looking for juvenile sex trafficking victims. They spotted an ad featuring what appeared to be a girl, and a Tampa police detective placed a call.

The detective was quoted a price of $300 for two girls and told to go to the Marriott hotel at West Shore Boulevard and Cypress Street.

At the hotel, the detective was met by an 18-year-old woman and a girl who claimed to be 17 but was actually 14.

Authorities said the 18-year-old has been a prostitute since she was 16.

Backpage.com to Suspend Certain Areas of Personals and Adult Sections While It Implements Solid Defenses against Misuse In a Proactive Effort to Protect its Advertisers, Users, and Minors Backpage.com Calls For Creation of National Task Force to Fight Illegal Users of Online Classified Sites

PHOENIX, Oct 18, 2010 (BUSINESS WIRE) — Backpage.com, a leading online classifieds site, today announced the immediate suspension of certain areas of its personals and adult sections of the site while it continues to develop technologies, features and programs specifically tailored to prevent the misuse of the site and its services. Backpage also calls for the creation of a multi-stakeholder national task force to create best practices in the online classifieds industry to help stop the ability to advertise illegally. Backpage looks to work with its industry brethren like YellowPages.com, Twitter, Yelp, Youtube, and Eros.com, as well as state Attorneys General, law enforcement, and child advocacy groups in solving the challenges facing today’s online classified and personals industry.

“Backpage.com is committed to the safety and security of our users and we recognize the urgency of implementing solid defense mechanisms to combat those intent on misusing the site,” said Steve Suskin, Backpage.com spokesperson. “We are pleased to have already identified some significant changes and are working diligently to implement them.” In addition to the immediate suspension, Backpage.com has begun the process of implementing the following changes to the site to ensure that content posted is legal and consistent with the sites usage policy: The review of all ads and images in the personals and adult sections of the site. The implementation of key word searches to quickly identify banned advertisements and inappropriate discussions. The significant increase in staff to quickly identify illegal ads. The implementation of roadblocks to prevent minors from accessing mature content. The implementation of dedicated tools on the site to educate users regarding online safety and security. The empowerment of users to report abuse and an expeditious process to handle user complaints.

“We’re at the forefront of new frontier in online classified advertising and must join together to create a national task force to overcome the challenges it brings,” said Hemanshu Nigam, Founder, SSP Blue. “I am very pleased with the commitment that Backpage executive leadership has shown in protecting its community and making positive critical changes.” Backpage will continue its productive and cooperative dialogue with state Attorneys General, especially Generals Blumenthal and Koster who are leaders in this area.

For more information about Backpage.com, please visit http://www.backpage.com.

About Backpage.com Backpage.com is a leading online classified site where most categories are free to post. Backpage.com includes partnerships with local newspapers, alternative newsweeklies and other media outlets nation-wide with the goal of bringing new visitors to the site in order to increase user created classified ad visibility.

Backpage.com is dedicated to making sure the site is user-friendly and has technology in place to fight spam in addition to providing users with cutting edge technology tools. Founded in 2004, Backpage.com has grown to be a major online classified site in the United States.