An Orange County teacher and a cook at Universal Resort Orlando are among 14 people who were arrested after seeking to meet children for sex, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office said Monday.
Detectives posed online as a child between the ages of 13 and 15 during a week-long operation dubbed Treasure Florida’s Kids II, Lake County Lt. John Herrell said.
“We’re out there to make sure people like that are taken off the streets and taken offline and are not a threat to our kids,” said Fred Jones with the Lake County Sheriff’s Office.
“All but one of the subjects traveled to the Golden Triangle area with the intent to have sex with [someone] whom they thought to be the child,” Herrell said.
Investigators said some suspects brought condoms and alcoholic beverages with them. They said three vehicles were seized in the operation.
“Even in the chats, they emphasize over and over again, ‘You do realize I’m only 14 years old?'” Lake County Sgt. Fred Jones said. “But unfortunately, these are individuals who are determined to travel to meet them.”
One man was arrested at his home after soliciting the detective, investigators said.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement assisted the operation.
Jason Sellards, 48, used to work for the Orange County School District. A spokesperson for the district said he taught English language arts last year at Wolf Lake Middle School but he was not scheduled to return this year.
“It’s sad, because these are the people [to whom] we entrust our kids,” Jones said.
Eyewitness News has requested Sellards’ personnel records and is waiting to hear back about his current status with the district.
Matthew Kinney, who works at Universal Studios as a cook, was also arrested.
“Anytime you have an individual who works where they have the ability, if nothing else, to be around kids, it’s even scarier,” Jones said.
Eyewitness News asked if the undercover busts are helpful in reducing numbers of predators, since police keep doing them and making arrests.
Investigators said they believe they do work, and once the cases are in the courtroom, they’re pretty much slam dunks for prosecutors.
“Sex sting operations like this have a high success rate and prosecution. They usually result in a plea, hardly ever a trial,” said WFTV legal analyst Bill Sheaffer.
“The more we get these people off the streets, there are less out there. I think we are making an impact,” Jones said.