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Tuesday, Jun 19, 2018
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132 arrested in multi-county Florida child-sex sting

A four-month operation targeting online sexual predators in eight Florida counties has resulted in the arrests of 132 people, officials said Tuesday.

Suspects were arrested on a variety of charges, with the most common being traveling to meet a minor and using an online service to lure/entice a minor, officials said. Other charges included narcotics offenses, active fugitive warrants and resisting arrest.

Many of the suspects were previously identified by authorities, including three theme park workers, whose arrests were announced in July.

The end of the operation was announced at a joint news conference Tuesday in Winter Haven with Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri and Polk Sheriff Grady Judd.

“Every second of every day predators are on the Internet trying to get at your children,” Judd said in a warning to parents.

The suspects ranged in age from their 20s through 70s and included at least two from Pinellas.

Christopher Thomas Stephens, 32, of Largo, was arrested on charges of traveling to meet a minor and five counts of possession of child pornography. Judd said Stephens planned to bring a 14-year-old boy to the condo where he worked.

Bela Sziklassy, 71, told investigators his sexual interest was juveniles from “diapers to 11 years old,” authorities said. He was arrested on charges of traveling to meet a minor. Investigators said he was trying to lure a 12-year-old for sex.

Suspects came from “various walks of life,” including a postal worker, pizza deliverer, landscaper and a former law enforcement officer, the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office said.

An Animal Kingdom employee, 40-year-old Allen Treaster, of Kissimmee, was called a “textbook” example of child predator by the sheriffs. Treaster, a concierge at the theme park, was charged with traveling to meet a minor but said he previously went to Georgia to have sex with a child, officials said.

The other theme park workers arrested were Zachary Spencer, 26, of Clermont, a ticket supervisor at Disney World’s Magic Kingdom; and Matthew “Cody” Myers, 23, of Davenport, a food service worker at Universal Studios.

Nine sheriff’s offices hosted operations and eight others contributed personnel and resources from March 19 to July 20, Gualtieri said. The host agencies were from Pinellas, Polk, Jacksonville, Seminole, Sarasota, Citrus, Volusia, Lee and Escambia counties.

“If you get online and try to find kids to have sex with we’ve got a cot for you in the county jail,” Judd said.

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