The Valdosta Daily Times
TALLAHASSEE, Fla. —
The North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force arrested 20 individuals, including a Valdosta man and a Pavo resident, during an operation earlier this month called April Fools.
Between April 10-15, 16 suspects were arrested on sex-related charges, while the other four were arrested on drug charges.
Throughout the week, between 50 and 60 undercover officers posed as 12-, 13- and 14-year-old children online, steering those arrested to a predetermined location. When they arrived, they were arrested and charged.
Samuel R. Bowers, 24, of Valdosta, was arrested at 1:05 a.m. April 14, according to an arrest/probable cause affidavit provided by the Tallahassee police. The affidavit lists sexual and drug charges against Bowers. Justin Bates, 21, of Pavo, reportedly provided a photograph of himself during the online conversation, according to a separate probable cause affidavit. That affidavit lists sexual charges against Bates.
“Any time you can get someone off the street committing crimes against children, it’s a good thing,” Tallahassee Police Department Officer Dave Northway said. “We’re going to continue to aggressively try to wipe out these types of crimes.” A similar ICAC sex sting operation was held last year, which was also “very successful,” Northway said.
The Leon County Sheriff’s Office, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Marshals, the U.S. Attorney’s Office, the Office of the State Attorney, the Department of Homeland Security Investigations unit, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Gainesville Police Department, the Pensacola Police Department, the St. Johns Sheriff’s Office, the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office and the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office all participated in the operation.