25 arrested in child sex sting in Manatee

rdymond@bradenton.comFebruary 19, 2014 

MANATEE -- A 62-year-old Minneola man reportedly traveled 109 miles from his Lake County home Friday thinking a Manatee County mother was going to allow him to have sex with her 13-year-old daughter.

Instead, when Jack Thomas knocked on the door of a Manatee County residence at 10 a.m., he was greeted by members of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office who promptly arrested him.

Thomas was charged with traveling to seduce, solicit or entice a parent to consent to sexual acts with a child, lewd and lascivious battery and use of a computer to solicit sex, according to his arrest report.

Thomas ended up being one of 25 men arrested during a week-long undercover sting called Operation Green Shepherd III, designed to arrest suspects trying to engage a Manatee County minor for an unlawful sexual encounter.

"These people have agreed to meet juveniles and instead meet several deputies," Dave Bristow, a sheriff's office spokesman, said Tuesday, the day the operation was made public.

Eight local residents were arrested in the sting, including Kevin Harris, 44; Ken Hulata, 39; Dan Maisonet, 24; William Gant, 50; Mark Nowak, 44; and Brian Ambrose, 37, all of Bradenton; Palmetto's Glenn Olvera, 22; and Longboat Key's Donald Constantino, 75, according to arrest records.

The ages of the arrested ranged from 19 to 75, according to the report.

All suspects were charged with travel to seduce, solicit or entice at child to commit a sexual act; use of a computer to seduce, solicit or entice a child to commit a sexual act; and attempted lewd and lascivious battery, according to a sheriff's office release.

The first Green Shepherd operation in September 2012 netted 43 arrests, Bristow said.

The second operation in March 2013, produced 35 arrests, Bristow added.

"This was very similar to the first two operations," Bristow said. "The numbers may be going down because people realize this is going on and also because we are making arrests and other agencies are also doing operations and making arrests."

As in the other two stings, undercover detectives went online to set up meetings for the operation, which started Feb. 10 and concluded Monday.

Thomas told authorities he thought he was talking with the 35-year-old parent of the 13-year-old, according to his arrest report.

A special agent with the Federal Department of Law Enforcement posed as the parent using the name "Sally." Sally began chatting with Thomas via a channel named "Incest" in an Internet Relay chat room, according to the arrest report.

During their conversation, Thomas asked Sally: "Do you ever think you would let an older guy like me enjoy being with her?" according to the arrest report

Sally reportedly replied: "Yes I would."

When Thomas showed up at the residence he was taken into custody without incident.

He reportedly admitted to the chats and text conversations and said he knew what he was doing was "very wrong."

Thomas reportedly told undercover agents he looks at child pornography on his computers and phones.

Richard Dymond, Herald reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7072 or contact him via Twitter @ RichardDymond.

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