Policing the police: Did Sarasota Sheriff go too far on undercover sex sting?

Tom Knight Sarasota
Florida man’s suicide shines light again on police overreach.

A 62-year-old soon-to-be-grandfather is dead following a controversial undercover operation by the Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s office — a sting designed to target child predators, but one that instead targeted men looking to meet other adults on adult websites.

Hamid Keshmirian committed suicide last week, less than 24 hours after bonding out on charges related to his conversations about sex with an undercover deputy, who claimed to be a 14-year-old prostitute.

The chats began on hookup site SkipTheGames.com, where Keshmirian responded to an ad that appeared to be for an adult escort. But detectives with the Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s Office (SCSO) changed the woman’s age to that of a 14-year-old after the conversation about sex began.

Keshmirian, a single man, whose two adult daughters say he was battling depression and loneliness, continued the conversation with the woman he thought wanted to have sex with him. Deputies went as far as to put a man on the phone with Keshmirian, claiming to be the girl’s father, giving permission for the encounter.

Keshmirian ultimately agreed to meet up with the girl on Thursday, Sept. 19 — his birthday. He was arrested upon arrival, spending two nights in jail because Keshmirian’s family says SCSO denied him a phone call and kept his arrest out of the computer system while they continued to hunt other men.

A friend finally bonded Keshmirian out on Saturday morning, Sept. 21; it’s believed he took his life later that night, just hours before he was set to attend the Sunday baby shower for what would have been his first grandchild.

“They killed our dad,” said an emotional Natasha Keshmirian, who said men like her father were the only victims of the SCSO sting. “My dad’s not a pedophile … but he didn’t have the money to fight it.

“He lost everything (in the Great Recession) — his business and his home — and he battled depression for eight or nine years,” his daughter continued. “He was just getting his new life together — he had a new business, a new house, and a new truck … then they entrapped him.”

Who is preying on whom?

Five days after Keshmirian’s suicide, Sarasota Sheriff Tom Knight forwent his typical post-sting press conference, where he might face reporter questions, instead releasing information about the operation and the 23 men arrested via news release and a series of Facebook posts.

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“I wish I could say these operations were no longer needed but time and time again, even after we make dozens of arrests, these men keep coming back for more,” Knight said in the release.

What Knight didn’t say was that the men — many of whom traveled long distances — might not have ever have come to Sarasota had deputies not convinced them to. It’s also likely many of them — who were looking to talk to other adults on legal, adult dating sites and apps such as Bumble, Grindr, and Plenty of Fish — would never have considered talking to underage teens had deputies not suggested it.

Knight’s office also could not provide any evidence that the adult dating apps and sites they used in the sting were used by adults to prey on teens.

However, bait-and-switch tactics on adult dating sites have become more frequent for law enforcement agencies that seek to boost arrest numbers related to sex crimes, even if the prosecutions don’t always hold up. The “To Catch a Predator”-style stings are relatively easy for law enforcement to conduct, compared to operations that target higher-priority sex crimes like child pornography or sex trafficking.

“They should be targeting people who are targeting unsuspecting young girls,” said Sarasota defense attorney Peter Aiken, who runs the Florida Sex Sting Lawyer blog. “If police are posing as (adult) escorts (and) soliciting sex for money … how can they say the defendant is doing the luring, seducing, or enticing?

Aiken points to examples where undercover deputies have resorted to teasing men who didn’t want to meet up with underage teens, pushing conversations about sex on men who didn’t want to talk about it, and offering gas money to convince one man to make a trip he initially declined. Some men are arrested for their conversations with decoys, even if they don’t ever travel to meet up.

Aiken says most of the men arrested have no real criminal history and suffer from behavioral and/or emotional disorders that make them more likely to continue conversations with what they believe to be a young girl showing romantic interest. Some of the men he has defended are autistic.

“I understand the need to protect children from child predators, but that’s not what (deputies) are doing,” Aiken continued. “This has nothing to do with protecting children. It is pure bait-and-switch to create arrest statistics. The police are the true sex predators.

What they are doing is morally wrong. They needlessly destroy lives, all for a few statistics.”

In 2015, WTSP-TV exposed the lengths detectives would go to boost arrest totals across Florida, including violations of their own protocols and making misleading statements on arrest reports. The majority of charges related to traveling to meet a minor — across more than 1,000 cases — were dropped or reduced, often because of the circumstances leading to the arrest.

But the public shaming by press conference-loving sheriffs lives online forever, even when charges were dismissed; young men who thought they were talking to someone their age were branded with a life-altering scarlet letter.

WTSP showed nearly half of the men arrested in Florida stings between 2005 and 2015 were high school or college-aged men who thought they were talking to a high-school-aged girl.

However, the penalties for law enforcement officers who cross legal, ethical, or procedural lines appear to be nonexistent, other than criticisms from the occasional judge.

“They keep doing it because it works,” Aiken said of agencies that continue to run undercover stings. “Nobody will stop them.”

Following the WTSP series, which was lauded by the Columbia Journalism Review in 2014 and honored by the Florida Bar Association in 2015, State Attorney Ed Brodsky, representing Manatee, Sarasota, and DeSoto counties, said he was concerned about deputy overreach during the stings and wanted to ensure the integrity of the process.

Anyone who is willing to travel to the doorstep of a 13- or 14-year-old to have sex with them merits the full attention of law enforcement,” Brodsky said in a statement Sunday, but declining to answer specific questions about why men, seeking other adults, were targeted. “(Defendants) can choose to disengage at any time … The choice is theirs.”

Brodsky also wouldn’t discuss whether deputies risked prosecutions by going too far to convince hesitant men to travel.

“We review every case to make sure law enforcement investigations and techniques fully comply with Florida law,” he said.

Low-hanging fruit vs. high-priority threats

Also problematic to legal observers — as well as those who fight sex trafficking — is putting the “To Catch a Predator”-style stings before priorities that pose more significant risks to children, such as sex traffickers or adults talking to kids on platforms they frequent.

The SCSO could not provide any evidence that any of the 23 men arrested in their sting were tied to trafficking or any previous sex crime.

Several sheriffs stopped conducting undercover “traveler” stings years ago, including Pasco Co. Sheriff Chris Nocco, who told WTSP in 2014 the stings were a “waste” of resources

Even Polk Co. Sheriff Grady Judd, whose frequent stings and memorable press conferences provided him regular television time across West/Central Florida airwaves, appears to have shifted his sex crimes resources away from “traveler” stings in the last year.

Judd was at the center of the WTSP investigation in 2015, as well as a 2010 US Dept. of Justice audit that found his Internet Crimes Against Children task force wasn’t responding quickly enough to high-priority cyber-tips.

The stings were made popular by NBC’s Dateline, which aired 12 installments of “To Catch a Predator” between 2004 and 2007. The operations typically targeted adults who attempted to reach out to children in platonic chat rooms where teens might typically frequent.

However, the series concluded in 2007, one year after a Texas man, about to be arrested for chatting with undercover detectives, shot and killed himself.

Since then, it’s believed at least half a dozen more men have killed themselves following similar stings by law enforcement agencies around the country.

SCSO spokesperson Kaitlyn Perez would not answer specific questions about the stings, but defended the agency’s tactics, saying “it is very clear — no matter how many times we conduct these operations, people continue to communicate with, engage with, travel to meet and attempt to have sex with who they believe are children.

“If adults want to utilize social media as a means to meet other people and date, that’s no problem. If, however, grown adult men want to utilize social media to prey on children and teens who identify themselves as 12, 13, and 14 years old, we are going to arrest them. It’s just that simple.”

Aiken refuted those claims.

“I understand them wanting to target people looking for children, but (what they did) was a direct solicitation for prostitution,” he said. “That’s not where you’d find someone looking for a minor.”

Covering their tracks

WTSP’s landmark investigation into the stings relied on public records — specifically, chats between detectives and men who weren’t interested in meeting up with an underage teen — to show how far law enforcement officers would go to try and trap otherwise law-abiding men.

Since the investigation was reported in 2015, Florida law enforcement agencies have gone out of their way to destroy records related to the stings before the media or attorneys can obtain them. Public records experts consulted by Florida Politics say the unsuccessful chats between detectives and men on various dating or chat sites should be public records, but there is little risk to agencies violating the law.

The Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s office has also refused to turn over other documents in its possession over the years, claiming public records exemptions related to “surveillance techniques” and “active investigations.” However, the agency agreed to turn over documents related to Keshmirian’s arrest following his death.

Records show the Bradenton man responded to detectives’ ad on SkipTheGames.com, where an undercover officer posted a photo offering “incalls” between 8 p.m. and midnight.

Keshmirian swapped about four dozen text messages with the undercover detective over two days, and talked to the detective — as well as another detective posing as her father — a total of six times. He went to the decoy house in Sarasota on Thursday afternoon, Sept. 19.

Before he shot himself overnight Saturday, he visited his business one last time and left a note for his family.

“My dad was just a really hard worker with a lot of pride,” said daughter Natasha. “He was loyal, reliable, and taught us really high morals and values. He taught us to be strong … and nobody ever felt uncomfortable around him.

“But he was also really lonely.”

The Keshmirians are preparing to say goodbye to their father this week. Then, they will resume preparation to say hello to what would have been his first grandchild, due in October.

Noah Pransky

Noah Pransky is a multiple award-winning investigative reporter, most recently with the CBS affiliate in Tampa. He’s uncovered major stories such as uncovering backroom deals in the Tampa Bay Rays stadium and other political investigations. Pransky also ran a blog called Shadow of the Stadium, giving readers a deep dive into the details of potential financial deals and other happenings involving the Tampa Bay- area sports business.


59 comments

  • Edward Freeman

    September 29, 2019 at 7:48 pm

    Excellent reporting!  The conduct of “law enforcement” throughout Florida in this regard and many others is disgusting.  Those who entrapped this man, including Sheriff Knight, should be charged with voluntary manslaughter at the very least. There is no excuse for they type or reckless behavior on the part of the Sheriff’s Department.  Gov. DeSantis should remove Sheriff Knight immediately, as his actions seem far more intentional than Sheriff Israel’s, in addition to Knight’s other illegal activities such as with the Sarasota County School Board.  We certainly need to protect our children from predators, but actions such as these protect no one and endanger other innocent lives.

    • Madmom

      October 2, 2019 at 6:38 pm

      The behavior of the Sarasota Sheriffs Department is unconscionable. This is a total and absolute abuse of discretion.

      My 19 year old son was sent pics of someone from Grinder who was clearly of a mature age. They spoke on the phone. The person he spoke to had a deep, manly voice. He talked my son into driving to his house. When my son was on the way, he received a text from the man saying “ bye the way, I’m only 14.” My son laughed at him. He said you sure don’t look or sound 14. Hahahaha. He didn’t believe it. Had there been a 14 year old at the house when he got there, my son would have been shocked. He also would have left. Instead he was arrested.
      Ironically, I’ve since learned that he falls between what is called the Romeo & Juliette law. This gives a span of 5 years for age appropriate sexual relations. Evidently, the Sarasota Police Dept. wasn’t privy to this information.
      My son has been humiliated. He had to take a medical leave from school for this semester. He has received death threats. He was fired from his job. He is no longer welcome at the home of a childhood friend who have younger brothers & sisters. My son was very popular in High School. He was an AP scholar, a member of student government & on Homecoming Court. Thanks to the papers & Sheriff Knights press conference, literally hundreds of his classmates are under the impression that he was part of a pedophile ring, roaming our area looking for Children to molest. My child is a victim of SCSD. He is devastated, as well as everyone else in our family and all who know and love him. What they have done to my son is an abomination.

  • Alex

    September 30, 2019 at 5:55 am

    So either way this mans intentions where to break the law. If he had sex with an escort or a 14 year old escort. Even worse he spoke with the alleged father who says yes have sex with my 14 year old. That’s the issue someone in the right mind set would call the police to save the girl. I believe this article was written just to spite police in any way they can.

    • Shannon

      September 30, 2019 at 6:42 am

      I totally agree. This is a load of crap all day long. I am so extremely disappointed in this reporter. The people arrested are criminals and as much as I sympathize with losing a loved one but I don’t for one second believe he would have taken his own life if he weren’t guilty, embarrassed and ashamed. Shame on this reporter for trying to shed a negative light on the men and women in uniform that defend us.

      • Dale

        September 30, 2019 at 8:09 am

        You don’t know how entrapment works. This is sickening. The police aren’t identifying real threats to our children. They’re just padding numbers.

        Comparing looking for a prostitute to preying on children is shameful, but this kind of disgraceful practice is allowed to continue because people like yourself defend it.

      • ThatGuy

        September 30, 2019 at 10:56 am

        Shannon, what other crimes do you enjoy letting Police create and bait people into?

        Should we let them sell beer to you before you enter your car?

        AUTOMATIC DUI! So stupid! How can you think that solves anything?

        RIDICULOUS!

      • peoplearesheep

        September 30, 2019 at 11:16 am

        How are they criminals when there wasnt even a real crime? There was no real kid. IF there was a real kid i would say lock him up but it was another adult preying on people who are lonely and was seeking other adults.

        • Ray Blacklidge

          September 30, 2019 at 11:31 am

          There are real kids out there getting abused everyday. Here in Florida there was a father who pimped out his kid since he was an infant, that poor kid didn’t know anything else and thought that was normal. They moved around, the kid couldn’t read or write, he didn’t even know his birthday. The only way he was saved is his father brought in another young boy for the same sick stuff and the kid knew it was wrong to do that to that kid and reported it. The kid had no conception that what was being done to him was wrong. It’s difficult to get human traffickers off the streets and the best way is to go after those that feed the industry, like the guy in this story. Yes, there are real victims out there and this guy was intending to feed child abuse by starting to participate in it.

          • ThatGuy

            September 30, 2019 at 12:15 pm

            Very interesting story… So you want to help kids. Lets arrest people who are looking for adults by talking them into kids?

            What are you people smoking?

    • Ed C

      October 2, 2019 at 10:45 pm

      Good luck with that one! I called authorities after chatting with three different young women (16) who claimed to being sexually abused. One had been abused by her father for years, one by a stepfather, and the other was induced into prostitution out of economic desperation.

      I waited until I had gathered enough identifying information on these persons so that they could be found with minimal effort by the police. In each instance, I was told that the resources to follow tips like mine were not available. Now I know why. To do so would require actual police work, and perhaps time away from the coffee and doughnuts.

  • Muhammad Akram Zahid

    September 30, 2019 at 8:00 am

    MuhammadAkram Zahid from Pakistan.
    I’m a teacher.
    Hamza Hafeez FGCU student came to study just two months before.
    I’m Hamza Hafeez ‘s uncle and his teacher.
    He was a brilliant student of his university.
    I’m much worried about his arrest.
    what he has done can never be defended but
    1- he is an orphan
    2- his mother is a widow and cancer patient.
    3- he was the only hope for this family.
    we have never ever heard about his act like this.
    so as a teacher I’m requesting pardon for his first and last shameful act.

    • Ejaz zafar

      October 2, 2019 at 11:31 pm

      Sir this article clearly shows that the sheriff entraps the individuals, this is the modus operandi of sheriff to implicate innocents to complete his statistics which is a disgusting act being in such a public office and you are accepting that Hamza has really committed that crime! Stop it. We as classmates know him very well , he has not done anything like this , he has been trapped . He has been a brilliant student with exceptional academic achievements, he has been writing in national and international newspapers as columnist and he is a humanitarian . He is a man of impeccable character and has been a part of co_education system he knows how to behave with persons. We request/urge the US government.to release him as soon as possible. And i request the writer of this article please help us/Hamza to put him out of this trouble.

      • Talal Ranjha

        October 3, 2019 at 12:33 pm

        Excellent Reporting, thanks to writer of this article who at least explained true story behind this whole evil activity conducted by Sarosata County Sheriff and his Deputies who are wrongfully implicating innocent, more vulnerable and weak people of society in order to just fulfill their statistics and show to the public and higher American Authorities that they have nabbed big criminals. This is quite shameful and disgusting for every prudent person who has seen all the videos made public by sheriff office in which there is only one so called minor standing in threshold of the house and others waiting inside of the house for catching the people like prey. All of 23 people caught are arrested on charge for soliciting a single minor and at same place, what kind of bullshit is this! Is this perceivable to reasonable prudent mind. It is totally planted and trap story as it can be seen through the facts. This purely shows that whole of this was properly planned and planted by sheriff and authorities in order to trap people and enhance their figure of arrest and make their operation based on disgusting approach to look like successful. Moreover, we can see all of the person caught by them are from weak social background and no influential person is caught. They hunted on most vulnerable people. This kind of operation and such official deputed in a state like America who calls itself Superpower is really unbelievable and shocking. I urge the media channels who are conducting media trial of the innocent persons to at least inquire about their conduct in daily life, before just throwing bad news based on false and fake operation in public. Shame on such state officials! Who risk the whole like of innocent and simple people for just to show their fake competence, they are themselves predators of humanity. I therefore request Americans high-ups to take notice of this fake operation and urge the jury involved in this matter to at re-inquire whole matter again and check the past conduct of persons and decide fairly and honestly in light of true facts instead of taking guidelines from one side story of fake media reporting and a sheriff of questionable character. Because it is better to set free hundreds of convicts rather than convicting a one innocent person. I beg before haw enforcement Agencies to take notice of this matter. It involves the question of whole life Person arrested. I beg before American civil society and defence lawyers and concerned bar councils to highlight this matter. It is a matter of grave sensitivity and justice should prevail in any manner. Thanks again to writer for true reporting in this digital world of purely selfish people.

  • Linda Pupke

    September 30, 2019 at 8:15 am

    So let me get this straight. Law-enforcement officers talk to this man a total of four times. This man knew that he was supposedly speaking with a 14-year-old girl and her father giving consent and yet he continue doing it, even going so far as to arrange a meeting. I have no pity for someone who commit suicide under these conditions, he must’ve been filled with guilt and shame, he knew he was doing wrong. Shame on him. Kudos to the law-enforcement officers!! Maybe the family needs to take a look at their miss placed anger, and instead be angry at this pervert of a father of theirs.

    • Larry

      September 30, 2019 at 11:10 am

      It’s unbelievable someone would cheer this kind of entrapment. This man was seduced by the the police into a situation he never was looking for. You’re a sick human being if you think this situation was a good thing.

      • Chris Iorio

        September 30, 2019 at 12:07 pm

        Isn’t it funny that Knight and Brodsky had the opportunity to go after a Sarasota County Sheriff’s captain in 2012, who impregnated an underage girl, and they did not have the guts to do an internal investigation but allowed the captain to retire with a full pension. Furthermore, they went after the reporter of this crime and got a corrupt county attorney and a corrupt Judge to agree and order that a Sarasota County deputy is NOT a mandated reporter of child abuse!So let’s welcome any child molester to Sarasota County as they will be fully protected since no law enforcement deputy can report them!

      • Linda

        September 30, 2019 at 12:46 pm

        I think you have a problem with identifying who is sick and who isn’t. There are too many perverted pigs of men that are going after young children and teens. It doesn’t matter if it’s a sting weather is really no actual child or whether it’s happening in real life, the intent is there. How can these pigs live with themselves thinking that it’s OK to molest and have sex with young kids?

        • ThatGuy

          September 30, 2019 at 12:52 pm

          So you don’t care if the crime is real or not, lets jail people for fake crimes…

          SO STUPID!

    • Jim

      September 30, 2019 at 8:06 pm

      So, if you plan to rob a bank. Buy a gun. Buy a ski mask. Drive to the bank. You should be arrested BEFORE you go inside? Do you think some people never make it to the bank door before they change their mind? Im sure there have been people who have gone into a bank intending to rob it and changed their minds once inside. I call B.S. on arresting people for what you think they might be getting ready to do. People should be allowed to change their minds last minute. Oh, is it a lot harder to entrap people by allowing them that choice? Tough shiitake.

      When they came for the red ones, I didn’t act because it wasn’t me. When they came for the blues ones, I didn’t stop them because it wasn’t me. When they came for me, there was no-one left to help me. (You get the point, hopefully)

      We must safeguard the liberties of our dearest enemy, least we create a precedent that reaches back unto ourselves. (Thomas Paine (from my faculty memory))

  • Linda

    September 30, 2019 at 8:29 am

    This article is way too slanted against Sarasota sheriffs department. They are just doing their job. If Keshmerian I knew that he was conversing with his 14-year-old girl and her father and continue to do it, and his active suicide was one of guilt and shame. I have no pity for him or his family. Perhaps the families misdirected anger should be towards the father, who is a pervert. The police were just doing their job.

    • ThatGuy

      September 30, 2019 at 10:57 am

      What a LOSER perspective!

      It’s police’s job to create fake children and talk people into sexual situations with them so they can arrest them?

      I’m glad you’re not in charge!

    • Lary

      September 30, 2019 at 11:11 am

      How many posts are you going to leave defending the cops Linda? You make me sick.

      • Linda

        September 30, 2019 at 12:48 pm

        Maybe you’re the sick one Larry. Defending sick perverted men who go after children is just as bad as doing the act yourself!

        • ThatGuy

          September 30, 2019 at 12:54 pm

          Linda we’re dumbfounded you’re missing the point. Police should not be out seeing what they can talk people into, and then charging them with attempting a crime they created which never could have happened in the first place.

          You want to be sure kids are safe, so lets talk adults looking into for sex with other adults into something illegal?

          What child was saved?

          That is crime creation, not crime prevention.

        • Jerry

          September 30, 2019 at 6:13 pm

          We should probably lock Linda up. I’m sure if we start digging we can find some reason to arrest her. She’s certainly dumb enough to be entrapped.

        • The big one

          October 8, 2019 at 10:46 am

          Bottom line here is “all” person’s involved in setting up these fake sex sting should be bought up on sex chargers and put in Prison.

          Linda, It is all made up. To put money in everyone involved pockets . Guess what it is taxes payers money going in there pockets. Remember election time is coming up.
          Wake up people!!!!!!

          • The big one

            October 8, 2019 at 10:51 am

            Remember there r only 6 jurors in a trail in FL . It is set up for high conviction rate . They all know that. Ask me how I know?

    • peoplearesheep

      September 30, 2019 at 11:13 am

      what is wrong with you? They should direct their anger towards their dead father who went on the site for an adult and got trapped by police? So your saying that its ok for police to create fake crimes and impersonate a kid and do whatever they want to imprison people? sounds like you would be better off living in china.

    • XG

      October 1, 2019 at 5:02 pm

      He didnt know. He was on an adult dating site whose terms of use clearly state that the service is only for adults. The cops placed an illegitimate ad with a fake profile, wanted him to believe something he did not know, nor did he believe until they did a bait & switch of the imaginary decoy’s age. The man had no intention to commit a sexual act with a minor. The cops pushed this belief on him & arrested him, stating “Look, he believed our bluff”. True, he was stupid for travelling to meet someone who first posed as an adult & then ” age switched” to a minor, but the true intent, actions constituting a crime belong to the cops. And there’s no real victim, its an imaginary, made up fantasy by the cops. Why do they do this? They get paid for numbers, they get Federal funding grants per arrest made, without regard to the reality of the crime!! So here we have law enforcement becoming the true predators.

  • Ray Blacklidge

    September 30, 2019 at 8:37 am

    I agree with the majority of the comments here. Perhaps the reporter thinks it’s OK to have sex with minors if the father says it’s OK? That’s human trafficking Noah! Often the child’s own parents pimp them out from infant age through adulthood. It’s sick and unacceptable. There is no excuse, no matter how lonely or depressed you are to have sex with a child. Who do you think these abusers are, someone without family or emotions? No, they are grandparents, fathers, mothers, depressed individuals. Noah has done a great disservice by twisting the facts to point the blame onto the police. The police understand the stakes, they have seen the unrepairable damage done to children and I for one want them to keep getting abusers off the streets.

    • Jerry

      September 30, 2019 at 11:12 am

      Ray, you’re a moron. Go read up on entrapment before you spread your moronic ideas around.

    • XG

      October 1, 2019 at 5:05 pm

      Its never ok to have sex with minors. But what is worse? Actually committing that act or pretending to arrest innocent people upon whom the cops foisted the a bait & switch belief of an adult switched into an imaginary minor? If they can arrest people for believing their bait & switch, for the act of unintended sex with an imaginary minor, then these cops should be arrrested for placing the imaginary minor in danger in the first place!!

    • rt

      October 1, 2019 at 8:50 pm

      Yes, it is a good idea to prevent child sexual abuse. However, these stings have gone too far in creating a moral panic about internet child sexual abuse. What’s worse, i) Being sexually abused or ii) being falsely accused of sexual abuse? In this day and age of social media, being falsely accused is a death sentence. If the cops are going to create scenarios to prevent child sexual abuse, they should be honorable and not resort to deceitful, unethical, manipulative chicanery to inveigle innocent men to their death. Being on an ADULT (code word for sex) site indicates that the alleged offender has NO predisposition for child sexual abuse. Law enforcement should also use pictures of young looking “children,” not seductive young looking adult women to lure innocent men into their trap. These stings are essentially pure entrapment: Law enforcement should not originate a criminal design, implant the idea of committing a crime into an innocent citizen, induce them to commit the fake crime, and then arrest them for a crime. The overzealous police officers have gone too far.

  • ThatGuy

    September 30, 2019 at 9:18 am

    I think you are all missing the point! There’s no argument what he’s accused of is wrong… Ya’ll need to look at WHO CREATED THE CRIME! This man was not looking to break a law, till the police were involved.

    What other crimes do you all let the police create? Ridiculous!

  • SHANE RANK

    September 30, 2019 at 10:29 am

    Don’t do the crime if you can’t do the time! Yes the police “set up” the opportunity” put he was the one who took it…..period! He was told she was 14, talked to the father….and he moved on it……. he is sic pig! No More excuses snowflakes!

    • ThatGuy

      September 30, 2019 at 10:52 am

      They changed a legal situation into an illegal one. They’re supposed to prevent crime, not CREATE it.

      Should we start encouraging people to run red lights or murder one another when they never would have in the first place? “Well, he WOULD HAVE done it, so therefore, he’s guilty?”

      RIDICULOUS!

    • Will Allen

      September 30, 2019 at 10:53 am

      Snowflakes are you crybabies who need huge nanny government to fake “protect” you all. I didn’t let my children have $EX with adults. And I didn’t need big government to entrap anyone to accomplish that either.

      I’m tired of paying police to create crimes instead of actually preventing some.

    • XG

      October 1, 2019 at 5:09 pm

      It won’t be too far off before the police start encouraging people to break the law, entice & entrap them into it, just to be able to make arrest numbers. You don’t see doctors hand out toxins & germs just to stay in business, nor fire fighters encourage people to set fire to stuff just to keep their jobs. But when the cops do it, Floridians go giddy over it.

  • Dustin

    September 30, 2019 at 10:32 am

    I figure if this guy was to be prosecuted for attempting to sexually assault a fictional 14 year old, then the LE agents should also be prosecuted for endangering that same fictional 14 year old under the law the forbids them from using minors in undercover operations (all states have them).

  • SarahF

    September 30, 2019 at 10:33 am

    ThatGuy has it right. In these sting operations, some law enforcement agencies are baiting these crimes. There is no proof that these individuals would ever on their own have instigated these crimes. I personally know a man in his very early 20’s who went online to an adult Christian dating website and found a woman who was 21 years old. Over time they developed a relationship and talked about a physical meeting. Then the topic of sex came up and the woman (undercover law enforcement) suddenly became 17. But the well-trained law enforcement official new every button to push on this young, naïve man. Under the Florida Romeo and Juliet Law, he would probably have still been okay. But again, once the law enforcement official got him “hooked” and really turned on, the girl suddenly became 14. These guys (law enforcement ) are really good. There is so much unsolved crime out there that if these sheriffs’ departments were to quite trying to bait people into breaking the law, then maybe they would have more time to catch the people who have committed a crime on their own without an official putting suggestive comments in their head to do so.

  • peoplearesheep

    September 30, 2019 at 10:38 am

    Wow. Its crazy how blind people are. DO any of you actually realize there was no actual kid to be victimized? Would this man of actually talked or done anything to any kid? Even if he met up would he have actually followed through? IF there was an actual kid then ya he should of been locked up. IT wasnt an actual kid so in reality no kid was going to get hurt.

    • rt

      October 1, 2019 at 9:42 pm

      The alleged “crime” in these internet sex stings is no crime at all. As peoplearesheep notes, there is NO living human child involved in these sting operations. The people on the computers chatting with each other are both ADULTS; one or possibly both of these adults knows that both users are adults (have you heard of catfishing?). Even if law enforcement entraps a person, that person is not committing a crime because two adults talking to each other about sex and hooking up, which are not illegal. Even if the alleged offender successfully grooms the fictional “child,” and manages to have sex with the other person on the computer–NO crime is committed because two ADULTS would be having sex, not a man and an underage “victim.” There is NO victim in these sting operations. Law enforcement is wasting precious resources entrapping innocent and naive citizens, and creating public outrage about child sexual abuse. However, instead of saving “fictional” children, why don’t we fight child sexual abuse at the root or tap cause–usually it’s a family member over 90% of the time who abuses children–not a stranger! Spend the money on education, social services, fighting poverty, gender equality, etc etc instead of wasting time and money on these sting operations.

  • SarahF

    September 30, 2019 at 10:45 am

    For those who think these sting operations are appropriate, then consider all crimes. Do we want law enforcement baiting people for possible “future” murder crimes that may or may not happen, robbery, domestic violence, DUI’s, etc. It could be done. Is that what the American people want? I don’t think so.

  • Will Allen

    September 30, 2019 at 10:46 am

    I sure wish these people would choose homicide instead of suicide.

    These law enforcement criminals (LECs) are lazy. They’d rather sit on computers and entrap people because it is much easier and safer than doing actual policing. Then they ALWAYS have to brag so much about how they’ve so well protected everyone.

    It is a simple fact that as a parent, not one single time have I EVER needed any big government LECs to entrap people to fake “protect” my children. Not once. There could be 1,000,000+ people out there ACTUALLY looking for $EX with my children and it wouldn’t matter at all. Because I was an actual parent and assumed that there was at least 1 adult who would try. So I educated my children and supervised them. I did not rely on big government to fake “protect” them.

    Their nonsense $EX Offender Registries ($ORs) are exactly the same way. So much easier than actual, useful police work. We KNOW that $ORs are not needed. We KNOW that they are not beneficial. We KNOW that they do not even slightly hinder any crimes or discourage them. In fact, $ORs greatly encourage crime. Because $ORs exist there is certainly more crime, probably even $EX crimes. The key thing that $ORs do the best is to radicalize people and make them hate LECs, Amerika, and anyone who supports them. That is the key thing. $ORs are pure, through and through, idiotic social policy. But good luck prying that jobs-program out of the hands of big government and their LECs.

    As long as $ORs exist, never, ever support LECs for anything. Do not speak to them. Do not allow them to speak to you. They are a danger to America and actual Americans. Wage war on all “people” who support $ORs.

    • peoplearesheep

      September 30, 2019 at 10:50 am

      if you look at their facebook page everyone is praising them. For doing absolutley nothing at all. They literally did nothing. They stopped no crime because in reality there was no crime to commit. There was no kid. No nothing other than another adult pretending to be a kid which might i add is really creepy and weird.

      • Will Allen

        September 30, 2019 at 11:03 am

        Yep, people are stupid. They’d rather have police creating fake crimes instead of actually preventing real ones. And I would bet anything that so many of the people who love this nonsense don’t pay any significant amount of taxes. They love big government but they don’t want to pay for it.

        Their $EX Offender Registries ($ORs) are even more idiotic. They truly do nothing at all that is needed. And yet people think they are just the most awesome thing there is. LECs would rather do Registry “work” all day than any actual police work. That is why they brag about it all the time. They lie that they are “monitoring” people and “verifying” addresses and such. All just a bunch of theater instead of actual work. That is why they want to involve the entertainment media all of the time. It’s disgusting.

        And look at the “crimes” that they get to create from the $ORs. “Crimes” like not reporting some long forgotten e-mail account “quickly enough”. Or a car that is sold. Or volunteering here or there. Etc., etc. And they brag about those “crimes”. As if ANY of it makes ANY difference at all. Other than radicalizing people and making them want to murder other people. Just dumb, dumb, and dumber.

  • Steve Hall

    September 30, 2019 at 11:24 am

    Kurt Hoffman is second in command and running for Sheriff of Sarasota. If you want more of this type of “Policing” then vote for him. He should take some responsibility in this type of tactic. Weak police work. I have an Idea,, how about find sex predators in our county. #lazy. Signed -Steve Hall

  • Maestro

    September 30, 2019 at 12:53 pm

    The comments from all the puppets on Facebook are disgusting. Puppets is exactly what LE wants and puppets are exactly what society has become.
    But let’s not bother to REMIND them of the PROSECUTING ATTORNEYS that have been arrested for ACTUALLY ENGAGING IN SEX with minors. Or the PROSECUTOR from TX who was caught in one of these “sting” operations. Nah. Wouldn’t want to break their train of ignorance that court officials and LE could EVER do what some scummy truck driver would do. You know the old saying “That guys LOOKS like a….” fill in the blank.
    Law enforcement agents and prosecutors don’t “look like a…” I guess. And that isn’t enough evidence that perhaps we should stop making assumptions about people.

  • kathleen

    September 30, 2019 at 2:12 pm

    In WA state these stings are performed every few months. LE gets paid a LOT of federal funding from these. And if they were catching people who do assault people, or who were looking to assault kids, I’d be good with it. Truth here is that while LE spends hundreds of man hours running these stings, rape kits were not being processed (look it up!), rapists allowed to roam free cause LE wasn’t investigating, and ACTUAL TIPS CALLED IN were not being investigated.
    If you feel safe with LE creating criminals on adult sites while IGNORING real reports from the community….then please do support these tactics.

  • Ya'll....

    September 30, 2019 at 5:05 pm

    It’s really very simple. The minute he found out she was 14, most people would have screeched the breaks because they would know that means it’s an act that’s above her maturity level and likely against her will. Maybe if he’s caught up in the moment or drunk he goes along for a bit. But TWO days, four dozen messages and worst of all – permission from her “father”? I understand there is no real kid involved but the point of these stings is to make other guys think twice before they go along with a real parent pimping out a real kid- which does happen. It’s to make them realize it’s not ok to say yes ever to a 14 year old. Why on earth is this even a debate? The comments on her attacking law enforcement for entrapment I believe go way too far and seem to me to be indicative of your own internalized guilt knowing you would have gone along with it. I do feel for this family and for this man, but being lonely or depressed is absolutely no excuse to think it’s ok to procure sex with a 14-year old prostitute (who in no way would have been doing this on her own free will) with permission from her father. That is extremely disturbing and this story alone highlights that these stings ARE needed to teach everyone that no that’s not ok to do. We know driving down demand is key and stopping any leads that traffickers may get through creating doubt of legitimacy and suspicion of entrapment IS an effective method. Some of the cases mentioned do seem to go a bridge too far. However, in this sad case it absolutely didn’t. His loneliness got him, not the cops. And next time some guy is looking for a prostitute and finds a “willing” minor- he’s going to think twice about it with this story in mind. Also, can we track the IP address for the commenter suggesting we should kill law enforcement? This story was disturbing enough, the comments are far worse.

    • Jerry

      September 30, 2019 at 6:17 pm

      You can’t even spell y’all correctly so I’m not surprised you’re too stupid to understand entrapment. There wasn’t a crime. The police seduced a law abiding citizen into a horrible choice.

      Maybe we can track your IP and shake you down. You sound pretty dumb. Might be a good money making opportunity.

  • John Q Public

    September 30, 2019 at 6:02 pm

    The problem is, Ya’ll, that unless the transcripts of the chat is made public, we don’t know exactly what was said between the undercover LEO and the man who killed himself. Who’s to say the man wasn’t trying to disengage and the cops were pressuring him to do something? The fact the law enforcement is attempting to destroy the chat logs (evidence) should send chills down your spine.

    • Will Allen

      October 1, 2019 at 12:49 am

      Exactly. This guy might have talked to the 14 year old’s “father” and tried to get the guy to ID himself so he could turn him into law enforcement. Of course the cops would not have IDed the fake father so this guy decides he is going to meet the 14 year old, figure out who it is, and take her to law enforcement. We don’t know because the law enforcement criminals (LECs) are hiding the transcripts.

      And the fact the LECs would even EVER consider that it would be okay to destroy transcripts is just about the biggest red flag I could ever imagine. What kind of sane person would think that was okay?!

  • Aracely

    September 30, 2019 at 10:32 pm

    The police were willing to turn over the information only because the man is no longer alive to verify if they have turned over everything. I have heard too many stories, where the police (conveniently) lose the more important parts of a conversation like where it shows that someone declined, and police kept pushing and teasing. So, it’s very likely that police have not provided the entire conversation and/or all information.

    In Texas, law enforcement, prosecutors, and even criminal defense attorneys (who are also a part of this huge scam) go to great lengths to make sure they get the convictions they desperately want and need. They will take anything and everything they can and twist it into what they need it to be and what they need the public to believe. They will even go as far as to completely create lies. We have proof of this.

    Because we stood up and fought back, we have been able to uncover so much about how this works. The criminal defense attorneys are in on it and so is the State Bar. We’ve dealt with several attorneys over this matter. They all cover for each other here. It’s a small city here. The State Bar will also cover for their clearly unethical behavior.

    Prosecutors are only willing to take these cases to trial because they know that the criminal defense attorneys are going to help them win the cases, to get the convictions they desperately want, that they all end up benefitting from. It’s a huge business and has absolutely nothing to do with protecting children at all. The prosecutor here pushed a trial out for over a year, knowing very well that the defendant had been completely free with no supervision or restrictions for over a year. There was very obviously no actual concern for anyone’s safety. She chose to try other more petty cases before this one. Then at the trial she fought hard to fool the jury into believing that he (defendant) should be locked up because he was a real risk to children. It was sickening to see how they can focus on very specific details only and twist everything into what they want it to be. Then, of course, the prosecutor knows very well that the defense attorney is not going to bring up any important information up that would totally destroy the prosecutor’s case. The defense attorney will simply play along, presenting a mild (pathetic) defense. No witnesses, medical evaluations, or witness experts allowed (unless they get to choose a corrupt expert witness they want you to use). You are not allowed to bring in your own. We have proof of this too. Defendants have to fight hard for their right to testify, because the defense attorneys don’t want them to expose anything they’ve worked hard to keep covered up. Anything that clearly shows innocence is blatantly ignored, and they will work hard to cover it up. They will argue against all logic and reality, like you would not believe! If they can’t win in the discussion, they quickly change the focus of the conversation. They use a great deal of gaslighting, like dangerous abusers use. This is all done before the trial, of course. (Preparing for trial)

    There is so much more to this story. You would not believe the amount and level of dishonesty that goes on with these cases and how many people are involved in it. Like I said, we have proof of some of these lies. It’s a huge business. They bring in a lot of money with these cases. They can easily buy the convictions they desperately want.

    They work very hard to keep important information covered up, because they need the public to believe their lies. This is all a huge lie to the public. They know very well how to play on people’s fears, and there are many people who are always looking for others to take out their pain, fears, and frustrations on. These “real predators” with the actual minds of criminals are the dangerous ones that others need to be protected from.

    What’s even worse, is that they are actually protecting actual child predators. Sex sting operations are a huge scam, done for money, and they also create a false illusion of security, while they allow for actual child predators to continue preying on children. There are very good reasons to believe that sex traffickers are actually paying off police and government officials, here in Texas, to protect them. Police then conduct sex sting operations to create a distraction from the actual sex trafficking and actual child predators and pretend to be “catching child predators”, when in fact this could not be any further from the actual truth. They have to pretend to be catching them, because Texas is known to have a huge sex trafficking problem. The real problem is that law enforcement, others working in the legal system, and very possibly even government officials are a part of this huge problem. It wouldn’t be a big problem if they would stop covering up, like they have been. Maybe they are the ones running this. 🤷🏻‍♀️

  • Carl

    October 1, 2019 at 3:41 am

    Sheriff Tom Knight and the rest of the deputies at Sarasota Co. Sheriff’s office are all scumbags. They don’t care about all the lives they ruined or all the people they murdered. Callous bastards, they should be arrested and thrown in prison, and see for themselves what happens to those pretty police boys that have no guns anymore to abuse people. They know full well what happens to cops who go to prison so the name of their game is cover their ass. Just like Amber Guyger, they think the law applies to everybody else but them.

  • MJ

    October 1, 2019 at 8:30 am

    Ok people, maybe it’s time you all heard from someone who became a victim of these stings back in 2011. I was a young teacher and coach and was moving up in my profession that I had just started. I started using craigslist for online dating back in 2006. I never saw any minors on there ever before. The picture used in the undercover ad looked like a young adult female in the college age range. Come to find out, it was a pic of a female detective who was a friend of the detective that set me up. Speaking of that detective, his name is Chuck McMullen. He was arrested in 2016 for molesting 3 eight year old boys as a foster parent. He is serving a life sentence in federal prison in Indiana. Look him up. These are the scumbags running these stings mind you. I CANT BELIEVE NOBODY HAS RUN A STORY ON HIM—- NOAH, YOU NEED TO DO A STORY ON HIM!!

    In any event, the sting ruined my life and my families. And the fact is, these are all arrests for THOUGHT crimes. You people defending the police are missing the point. We were all arrested for THINKING about doing something with someone who DIDNT EXIST. Thay should scare the hell outta everyone. And look up US Code 42. It outlines the fake child sex crime initiative and ICAC task forces. They dole out 70 MILLION DOLLARS a year to fund this shit and sheriff’s all over the country fight for a piece of all that pie.

    My life sucks now. I went from a middle class life, to a life of poverty. I work 3 menial jobs now that dont get me even 2000 a month and I’m behind on all my bills. I have a masters degree and am having to clean toilets and be a delivery boy now. I’m too strong to kill myself, but thought about it a few times. And most of us got 5 to 10 years of probation and that is nothing but a money trap and just funds the therapist industry and polygraph guys and gives them guaranteed business. Its disgusting. Our country is being overrun by govt and law enforcement agencies that are out of control. We are about to become the next China. WAKE UP PEOPLE! Its gonna happen to you or someone in your family next and then you’ll change your tune about the “wonderful” men in uniform. Please. Give me a break. Makes me sick. Florida is one big police state and there is SO MUCH money being made for FL in the prison industry, its not even funny. Yall seriously need to wake up and do your own research and stop believing everything you see on the news and what these assholes tell you. I just wish all of us affected by these stings could come together and fight back.

    I’m a rebel and a fighter. That’s the only reason why I keep going. I’m determined to fight these bastards and I swear I’m gonna live to one day see Florida go down. Wake up people. Seriously. God bless.

  • Sheree

    October 2, 2019 at 10:56 pm

    My son was 23 years old. Went on Craig’s List Adults Only Site. Arrested along with 38 other men for a sex sting performed by ICAC. As the majority do convinced to take a plea so he would not get the 20 years they threatened he would get. Bottom line he’s life is miserable, suffers from teams of this whole ordeal and I suffer as a mother along with him. These men are not looking for underage girls on Adult Only sites. No victims. I agree crimes are manufactured to get these men to act and respond. They are having lots of success. I believe this story should be sent to high schools and colleges whete3 young men will see the seriousness of going on these internet sites even when they state Adults Only.

  • Ejaz zafar

    October 2, 2019 at 11:41 pm

    Sir this article clearly shows that the sheriff entraps the individuals, this is the modus operandi of sheriff to implicate innocents to complete his statistics which is a disgusting act being in such a public office. I am writing this because the sheriff has entrapped our friend Hamza Hafeez (from Pakistan) who is in Florida(studying in FGCU as a UGRAD foreign exchange student). He has lived more than two decades in this country with clear past, no criminal record, never has been indulged in any illegal activity. We as classmates know him very well , he has not done anything like this , he has been trapped . He has been a brilliant student with exceptional academic achievements (which is why he was selected for semester exchange programme after all assessments and interview) , he has been writing in national and international newspapers as columnist and he is a humanitarian . He is a man of impeccable character and has been a part of co_education system he knows how to behave with persons.we are worried about him. We request/urge the US government to release him as soon as possible. And i request the writer of this article please help us/Hamza to put him out of this trouble.

  • Jon

    October 3, 2019 at 12:59 pm

    It isn’t just Florida that does this sort of thing – I live in Pennsylvania and I was convicted as a sex offender. I had THREE chats with someone from the attorney general’s office on Yahoo Chat. In the FIRST chat they were very specific that they were legal age but they wanted to have fantasy chats about them being younger. I asked multiple times and confirmed with them they were legal and said ok, as long as it’s a fantasy sure – and being fair, the bikini picture she sent me looked more like a late 20 year old than a 13 year old.
    In the second chat they came back on the same user name and we continued. Same for the third and there were nude pictures sent on my part.
    I never intended to meet with them. I even stopped talking with them for 6 months. Then they arrested me. When I mentioned this to my lawyer he asked them about it and low and behold THAT FIRST chat and the charges from THAT FIRST chat were dropped from my case…. they also then claimed that we weren’t entitled to receive THOSE chats anymore during discovery. They took my laptop that would have had screenshots. My yahoo ID was locked so I didn’t have access to that, and since they wouldn’t give it to me I no longer had ANY proof… but why would they drop THOSE charges if I wasn’t telling the truth? I will concede that the 2nd and 3rd chats were wrong, and you can hate me all you want… but if you are being honest with yourself can you really say that what the attorney general’s office did was right and that it wasn’t entrapment? That what they did wasn’t wrong…
    I took a plea deal that kept me out of jail to stay with my family… but I’m still a sex offender… it’s been 9 years since I was convicted, and I am jobless, very few friends, depressed, and frustrated. I have been stalked and harassed by family, friends, and neighbors. I have been suicidal, and if I am being honest with myself it’s something I still fight with every day….

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