A long-time Disney World employee and a Publix bagger were among the 13 sexual predators nabbed in an undercover sting operation in Florida, police said.
Working jointly with “To Catch a Predator’s” Chris Hansen, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office targeted suspects accused of attempting to “sexually abuse, groom, and corrupt” children, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at a press conference on Thursday.
During the week-long operation, dubbed “Operation Cyber Guardian II,” officers posed as juvenile boys and girls — some as young as 13-years-old, Fox 13 reported.
Eight suspects showed up at an undercover location in Polk County believing they were meeting with a minor for sex, the sheriff’s office said in a statement. Police obtained warrants for the arrest of five others in different countries.
Three of the suspects believed they were speaking with a parent or guardian of a child who wanted to teach their child to have sex or arranged for the minor to have sex with the suspect.
The 13 men are collectively facing 41 felony and three misdemeanor charges including: traveling to meet a minor for sex, attempted lewd battery, use of a computer to seduce a child, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, and transmission of material harmful to a child.
According to the sheriff’s office, two of the suspects told detectives they were married, two brought condoms to the undercover location and two brought illegal drugs.
Among those arrested were 42-year-old Kevin Sanders, of Winter Garden, who was taken into custody at Disney World where he has worked for 16 years, Sheriff Judd said.
Sanders worked at the park as a roving IT support specialist, but had previously worked as a member of Disney’s Youth Education Series Program, which offers accredited educational programs to students ages 5-18, officials said.
Sanders, a married father of two young children, allegedly began exchanging messages with an undercover cop he believed to be a 13-year-old girl on Aug. 29. He allegedly told her the sexual acts he wished to perform on the child and told her that they would “have to be careful” due to her age, the sheriff’s department said.
Police allege Sanders has previously engaged with undercover officers he believed to be young girls but always cut off communication before actually traveling to meet with the minor.
He was booked in Orange County Jail and charged with transmitting harmful material to a minor and using computer to solicit a child for sex.
Joshua Cummins, 28, was also arrested in the operation after allegedly traveling to the undercover location thinking he would be meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex, officials said. He told cops he was employed as a construction subcontractor and was currently building a new rollercoaster at Disney.
He was charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex, use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony and attempted lewd battery. He was released on an $18,000 bond.
A Publix grocery store bagger, 33-year-old Matthew Silva, was arrested after he allegedly sent sexually explicit messages and nude photos of himself to an undercover officer he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.
Silva was charged with transmitting harmful material to a minor and using computer to solicit a child for sex.
“Parents please get all in your child’s business when it comes to their use of electronic devices that gives them access to online gaming, mobile applications, texting, or the internet,” Sheriff Judd said. “Check their devices regularly, and ensure parental controls are enabled to keep men like these away from your kids.”