MANATEE -- Fourteen men have been arrested by undercover officers targeting people looking to have sex with children, according to the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.
Operation Green Shepherd IV was conducted from March 2 through March 10 and led to 13 arrests, the report said. One additional arrest is pending, according to a news release.
"They think they are coming to have a sexual encounter with a juvenile when in reality, they are getting arrested," sheriff's office spokesman Dave Bristow said.
Detectives posing as juveniles chatted online with potential suspects and then agreed on a meeting in a public place, where the arrests were made.
Unlike previous operations where undercover detectives used a local residence to set up meetings with potential suspects, this time the sheriff's office ran the operation out of one of its district offices, Bristow said.
In addition to saving money, the change was made to give detectives an edge on catching unsuspecting suspects.
"This is down a little bit from the last operation we had, which was a year ago; we had 25 arrests," Bristow said. "If you hit double digits in something like this, we think it's successful."
The sheriff's office attributed the reduction of the numbers in part to the increased public awareness that these sort of operations are being conducted in Manatee County and elsewhere.
"Obviously, the need is justified by the number of arrests," Bristow said. "If you look at the number of arrests out there, there are still people out there that are preying on our children."
Those arrested face charges that include traveling to seduce, soliciting or enticing a child to commit sexual act, use of a computer to seduce, solicit or entice a child to commit sexual act and attempted lewd and lascivious battery.
The names of those arrested are:
George Anthony Stevens, 42, Bradenton.
Luis Alberto Rodriguez, 25, Bradenton.
Fadi Osama Ibrahim Ershid, 20, Bradenton.
Juan Carlos Santos, 24, Bradenton.
Jeffrey Flude, 44, Sarasota.
John Everett, 64, Palmetto (winter resident from Wisconsin).
Darrell Clois Thomas Childress Jr., 22, Riverview.
Thang Suan Dal, 26, Sanford.
Jason G. Lampione, Bradenton, 27, Bradenton.
David Michael Goldman, 26, Bradenton.
Thomas Rocco Withington, 32, Palmetto.
Imran Ahmed Siddiqi, 31, North Port.
Kenneth Ray Wilson, 23, Bradenton.
Jesse Wilkes, 28, Port Charlotte.
Other law agencies assisting with the operation were the Florida Department of Law Enforcement; sheriff's offices in Polk, Pinellas, Hardee, Citrus, Hernando, Lake and Lee counties; and police departments in St. Petersburg, Sanford, Sarasota and Punta Gorda.
"You are never going to put a stop to it completely," Bristow said. "We think it's working and we will continue to do it."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.