MANATEE -- Forty-three people have been charged with arranging via Internet chat rooms to have sex with a child, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
But when they arrived at a location in Manatee, they found themselves snared in an undercover sting run by Manatee deputies and other law enforcement, officials said Monday.
The sting, dubbed "Operation Green Shepherd," started Sept. 10, and ended Monday morning, according to authorities.
Children were never at risk during the operation, which went like this: The suspects made contact with the undercover officers in Internet chat rooms. When the suspects arrived at the undercover house, they were were arrested, according to the sheriff's office.
In all, 40 officers, who received training as to how to chat like children, participated in the operation, according to officials.
The sheriff's office posted a video featuring the operation on its YouTube channel.
The suspects face multiple charges, including traveling to seduce, solicit or entice a child to commit sexual acts; and abuse of a computer to seduce, solicit or entice a child. Some of the defendants were also charged with transmission of materials harmful to minors by electronic device or equipment; lewd and lascivious molestation, attempted capital sexual battery and possession of drugs.
One of those arrested, Eugene Marshal, 43 is a registered sexual predator, according to the sheriff's office.
The suspects are from Manatee, Sarasota, Hillsborough, Pinellas and Polk counties.
Besides the Manatee sheriff's office, other agencies involved in the sting include the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency, the Bradenton Police Department and sheriff's offices in Sarasota, Polk, Lee and Lake counties.