For the past week the sheriff here in Sarasota has been running an Internet Sex Stingtargeting gay men. There have been 18 arrests that have mostly been not reported on the official records. When the stings are running and people are being arrested, the sheriff and the clerk of Court do not allow the information to get out. This makes it really tough for the guys that get arrested to contact relatives or bondsmen. You have a right to an attorney, but if you are sitting in the Sarasota jail, they dont make contacting an attorney very easy. That is why initially, most of the men have the public defender appointed. As the men are bonded out, those that can afford it seek private defense attorneys.
So far, only one out of eighteen men has been able to hire their own personal attorney.
It is critical that family and friends not abandon those charged in internet sex stings. You cannot believe what you see and hear on television when the press release is finally made. The Sheriff will always say that we are keeping the children of Sarasota safe. What they do not report is the fact that most of the time, they are creating a crime, not detecting or preventing one. There were 16 men arrested in Lee County (Ft. Myers) and once again, it was a gay sting. This has to be a bad week for the gay community with 34 men being arrested
From what I am hearing, there have been a bunch of arrests this weekend in Sarasota as a result of cops on Grinder pretending to be twinks baiting older guys with suggestive sexual innuendo.
When the guys travel they get busted for traveling to meet a minor to engage in sex after soliciting on the Internet.
The real issue is who is doing the real solicitation.
Is it the undercover twink chatter or is it the older guy? Only time will tell as these new cases work their way through the Court system. In the meantime, these guys sit with high bonds with literally the rest of their life on the line.
This answers the question of which applications the police are going to use to keep running thesex stings. Since Backpage.com and Craigslist Casual Encounters got shut down everyone has been wondering how it will affect the ICAC sex stings. Grinder unlike the prostitution sites is for consenting gay adults. Evidently, now with the prostitution sites taken down the police are going to have to settle for targeting gay guys. As a sex sting lawyer, in the past, only a tiny percentage of the men arrested were gay. This represents a major shift by law enforcement now going after the men on the remaining sites that have not been taken down.
If you are gay, and anyone even remotely suggests they are underage, do not even chat with them. You can get arrested for just talking, much less doing something. The best way not to get arrested is to not commit a crime. Never under any circumstances send a dick pic to anyone even remotely underage. A conviction for traveling to meet a minor can result in you becoming a registered sex offender and can destroy your life. Never text or chat with anyone that says they are remotely underage. If you plan on hooking up, demand proof of age. Do not assume that because they may say they are of legal age that they are. Demand a verified photo ID before you do anything. Do not assume that if you meet a young man in a bar that he is of legal age. Your life is at stake. AGE VERIFY ALWAYS.
Is there another sex sting running now in Sarasota?
Sarasota is long overdue for anotherInternet Sex sting. Now that Craigslist Casual Encounters has been taken down and now that Backpage.com has been shut down it will be interesting to see how law enforcement entices men to respond to their ICAC investigations. My bet is that they will be using the smart phone applications like Tinder, snapchat and other dating sites like Meetme.com or PlentyoFish.com. Right now, May 21st, if things go as usual, the Sheriffs department will be blocking the release of public information and denying the men their right to an attorney by not allowing them to make outgoing calls to family, friends or even an attorney. I fully expect that there will be a press release today or one day this week. Time will tell.
As a sex crime lawyer, I have defended over forty sex sting cases all over Florida. I am curious to see what tool the undercover chatters will be using to entice men totravel to meet a minor. The usual charge is unlawful use of a computer to solicit a minor or traveling to meet a minor after using a computer to solicit a minor”. For years I have blogged telling both men and women the best way to not get arrested is to never communicate with anyone that ever even hints they are underage. In the stings, typically, the undercover chatters claim to be adults and then when the chat gets going they say something like I am sorry, dont be mad, but I am really 14. They try and sucker the guys into continuing the chat with enticing hints that they are really old for my age or they like older guys. Sadly, over the years I have found that the men who fall for this are insecure and sometimes autistic or mentally challenged.
Do you have a husband brother or father you have not heard from in days? Have you checked to see if they are in jail? Until the sting breaks, they may not be able to call. I will be following this over the next few days to see if the sting is really running and see how many guys get entrapped.
On Wednesday, the President signed into law the“Fosta” Billimposing criminal penalties on Internet companies permitting prostitution ads on their sites.
This comes just seven days after the executives at Backpage.com were raided and arrested. Some are already entering guilty pleas in multiple State and Federal prosecutions. For Backpage, it was a 100 million dollar business. There are some good and bad things about the law. Craigslist has already taken down their “personals” section. This is going to take a huge bite out the ability of prostitutes to ply their trade via the Internet. This is also going to take away a huge tool used by law enforcement to identify human traffickers and people who have an interest in sex with children. The law in one respect is good, but in another bad in that it takes away the ability of law enforcement to track and identify pedophiles.
I have advocated for the legalization of prostitution in Florida. That would be a far better solution. Prostitution will never stop. It is the world’s oldest profession. Sensible regulation as opposed to criminalization, in my opinion, is a better solution.
The “Fosta” law will now be used to next target the “Escort” business here in Sarasota. Go online now and click on “Sarasota Escort” and see how many sites are up. My bet is that in thirty days, 90% of them will be gone. The “escorts” will now go to the social media dating sites and the dark web to place their advertisements. They will not go away, they will just be harder to find. This is going to push the prostitutes back into the bars and on the streets. It actually makes their business more dangerous. My prediction is that in the short term there will be a flood of high end prostitutes in the high end bars like the Ritz. Time will tell.
The FBI has raided the owners of Backpage.com and shut them down under the new law. Craigslist has taken down the personal sections like Casual Encounters. Escort sites are next on the target list to be shut down. Prostitution is going to be forced back onto the streets. My prediction is that this new law is going to backfire and make it more difficult for law enforcement to identify people who commit sex trafficking with children. Backpage.com was the number one source used by law enforcement to target human traffickers. Casual Encounters on Craigslist was the number one site used by undercover police chatters trying to identify pedophiles. The new statute is going to make it more difficult to enforce existing laws. Where will the millions of prostitutes go now?
The solution or at least a great first step in solving human trafficking would have been to legalize prostitution. It is already legal is some locations. The answer is reasonable regulation, not banning the worlds oldest profession. Prostitution has been with us throughout all of recorded history. The new law will bring back the era of the pimp. It will put women back in bars and back walking the streets. The better solution would be legalized and regulated houses for prostitution and have the prostitutes get regular medical exams, and provide a safe place for consensual sex.
There is a huge problem with the new law. It provides Ex Post Facto punishment. The new law specifically states that it shall apply regardless of whether the conduct alleged occurred, or is alleged to have occurred, before, on, or after such date of enactment. In other words, it purports to make something a crime, even if it occurred before the law was passed. That can never hold up constitutionally. The Feds are now in the business of enforcing prostitution laws. As a sex crime lawyer and an ex Federal Prosecutor and ex Federal Agent, I see the writing on the wall. This is similar to prohibition and we all know how that ended. Federal authorities are going to have a field day going after escort sites. Prostitution will be forced back into the shadows and in the long run, this will be worse for women. This is just another misguided law by misguided legislators.
The Sheriff in Polk has just announced another 16 arrests in the latest sex sting captioned Operation Cyber Guardian. These cases may be the last remnants from Craigslist Casual Encounters, the personal section now taken down by Craigslist. Many of the arrests over the last ten years are the result of undercover detectives posing as adults on Craigslist and then when people respond, changing the age to 14 or 15. It is going to become tougher and tougher for the police to entrap people as the sex hookup sites are taken down as a result of the new laws. The police are going to have to change tactics and switch to the cell phone applications that match purportedly consenting adults for sexual encounters
For some reason, in Polk County, the detectives are successful in drawing people from outside the County to come into the County to hook up with teenage girls. After hundreds of arrests, the men seem to fall for the same pitch over and over. Here is the reality. There are no 14 and 15 year old girls that want to have sex with older guys. It is always a cop. There are no 14 and 15 year old girls that want some older guy to teach them. It is always a cop. Here is another common thread. One fourth of the men asked the undercover chatters are you a cop. There is a misconception that the police have to answer that question truthfully. They do not. That is why they call them undercover cops. The undercover chatters usually respond back well, are you a cop and for some reason the guys buy it and continue to chat and travel. In most of the cases, the undercover chatter will ask the suspect to bring protection. That is so they can use it as evidence that the person was actually coming to have sex. In many of the cases, the undercover chatters will ask the suspect to bring candy or something to drink. Here is the bottom line. Never travel to meet a minor.for anythingmuch less sex. Never send a penis pic to anyone, whether they are an adult or a child. Never even hint to a child that you are interested in sex. Dont even think about it, much less talk about it. The best way to not get arrested is to not commit a crime.
The new legislation is going to take a giant bite out of the ICAC sex sting operations by local police. The police were the ones posting most of the phony ads. My prediction is that now law enforcement is going to target the escort sites going after the businesses that post ads for prostitutes. The new legislation is really going to hurt the thousands of women who provided sex for money. Their number one site for posting their wares has now gone down. What will replace Craigslist personals?Someone is going to step in and fill that void. The very simple answer would be to legalize and regulate prostitution. Men have been paying women for sex in one way or another for all of recorded history. It will not stop it and making it illegal only creates a market for illegal human trafficking. Good example, there would be no Mexican Cartels if marijuana had been legalized 50 years ago. Making some things illegal only creates a greater demand. The police can go back to the street hooker stings like the ones they run here on S.R. 41 but that will not touch the higher class prostitutes who were working the Internet.
Where did Craigslist personals and casual encounters go?
In response to the latest action in Congress, Craigslist has finally taken down the personals section including Casual Encounters. Had this been done years ago, it would have saved many men from becoming registered sex offender. For a decade, the police undercover chatters have been posting misleading ads in Craigslist personals. The police would post in the women for men section and in the men for men section first pretending to be over 18. When men would respond, the undercover chatters would change the age, then pretending to be young girls 13, 14 and 15. Thousands of men have been arrested and had their lives destroyed by these entrapment schemes. You may know someone who got arrested and faced a similar situation. Had this been done ten years ago, many men would never have been convicted and would never have become registered sex offenders.
The new law makes the providers liable criminally and any of them with any sense will now back off and shut down the personals. This is a death knell for the providers that provide services to the prostitutes. What the legislators really need to do is legalizeprostitution. The true way to stop human traffickingis to legalize it and control it. Who would take their chances with a drug infected street hooker, if they could lawfully go to a regulated an approved licensed house of prostitution? As a sex crime lawyer, I have handled approximately four dozen InternetSex Sting cases and almost everyone one of them began on Craigslist, Backpage or Meetme.com
This is going to take a bite out of the police ICAC chatters prosecution rate. Where do the police now go? The police will now target the telephone applications and other dating applications. Law enforcement has already started running child pornography stings. Is the FBI-ICAC task force putting out links to child porn and then arresting people who respond out of curiosity? We are coming into an entire new era for the police. Their tool is being taken away. Casual Encounters is done! The government can totally shut down child pornography. All they have to do is pass a law requiring Internet servers and providers to block the known videos and images when they are transmitted. Times are changing for everyone.
No matter how many times you see the news flashes on television about the Internet sex stings, men continue to fall for the pitch and continue to get arrested for soliciting minors. Sex is a powerful instinctive force. The law however is the law. It is against the law to have sex with anyone under the age of 16, and if you are over 24, the minimum age is 17. Men still fall for the online undercover chatter pitch month after months. Here is the reality guys.
If there is an ad on the Internet using the word “taboo”, it is an undercover police officer.
If there is an ad where a purported relative wants someone to have sex with their daughter, niece or nephew, it is the police.
If there is an ad where some young girl is looking for an older guy to teach her about sex, it is the police
Here are some golden rules to live by. The best way to not get arrested is simple. Do not violate the law. Never travel to meet anyone under 21 just to be safe. Demand proof of age. Do not assume that if they are on Craigslist or any other site they are over 18. Demand proof of age, not just what they say, demand actual proof. Be careful about meeting anyone you talk to on the Internet. It could be a robbery, a shakedown or some type of extortion.
Here is another golden rule. Never send a penis pic to anyone, even an adult over the Internet. As a sex crime lawyer, time after time, I see guys arrested for transmitting a dick pic to an undercover detective claiming to be some young girl or guy. If you are gay, you are a target for police undercover sex stings. The cops pose as twinks over 18 and then do the bait and switch claiming to be 13 or 14. If you ever are chatting with anyone and they mention 13, 14 or 15, terminate the chat immediately and flag the posting. The police are also using the dating applications that automatically match up strangers. They then throw out the age at 13, 14, or 15. Do not get sucked in by curiosity.
Curiosity killed the cat and it will land you in jail.
Do not become a registered sex offender for life.
Do not end up on sex offender probation.
Remember the old TV drug ads that said “just say no”? If it is a minor, “JUST SAY NO”
The best way not to need a bondsman or to need me is to JUST SAY NO. The secret to not needing a lawyer like me is to simply not give in to temptation and resist the urge to chat with anyone underage. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. And oh, by the way, it is an absolute myth that cops have to tell you they are a cop if you ask them. That is not true. I don’t know why people believe that. They don’t call them “undercover cops” for nothing. If you have been arrested for traveling to meet a minor or Internet solicitation, there may be valid defenses to the charge. It may be entrapment. The police may have violated the constitution.
The reason is because they are still working. Men are still being tempted, and continuing to be curious when the police run the “teaser” posts on Craigslist Casual Encounters and the other social media sites. Curiosity killed the cat and curiosity can get you arrested and land you in State prison. The latest teaser post used by law enforcement is a reverse psychology “warning” where the undercover chatters put up a post on Craigslist “warning” people that “the girl is not real” or that “the girl is underage, so don’t call it”. Incredibly some people will respond to this and contact the “minor” direct. It makes it difficult, but not impossible, to raise a defense when the post the person responds to is a warning saying “don’t do it”
The undercover ICAC chatters are also still constantly running the Sex Sting where they claim to be a relative, a mother, a father, an Uncle or an Aunt who has a teenager who needs “experience” or needs to be taught something sexual. This is always a police undercover trap. No parent or relative ever wants their child to be taught anything sexual by a stranger. Think about that. Teenagers nowadays don’t need to be taught anything about sex. There are no virgin girls out there that need anything from an older man. Simply responding out of curiosity can get you arrested, prosecuted and put away in prison. The best way to stay out of jail is to not commit a crime. Don’t even think about responding to this type of pitch. More importantly, don’t even for a second think about having sex with anyone under 18. That’s correct, I said 18, not 17. It is unlawful for a man over 24 to have sex with a seventeen year old.
They don’t call it jail bait for nothing. Here is the real shocker. Did you know that now almost thirty percent of teenage girls engage in “sexting” where they send inappropriate naked sexual pics to their boyfriends? Did you know that possessing such a pic or forwarding such a pic can get you convicted of child pornography? We live in a dangerous world where it is easy in a moment of weakness or curiosity to do something stupid. Think twice. If something sounds illegal or immoral, don’t do it. Feeling guilty about something is nothing more than conscience, about an hour too late.
As a sex crime lawyer I have seen men’s lives turned upside down from a single mistake in a moment of weakness