HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – A registered sex offender and a sergeant with the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office in Florida were among 16 people arrested in a sting targeting child predators in Hillsborough County.
Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister held a press conference Wednesday morning to share more details from “Operation Small Talk,” an undecover sting.
“The conversations, text messages and photos from these predators are so graphic, I can’t even begin to describe them, other than to say they are repulsive,” Chronister said.
Chronister said some of the men showed up to meet the teens with products they had purchased to use for sex.
Among those arrested were registered sex offender a member of the U.S. Army Reserve, Melvin Rosa Viera, and former Manatee County Sheriff’s Office sergeant, Stephen Utter.
Deputies also arrested a registered sex offender, Michael Daughtry, and Matthew Jones, who was charged with 51 counts of possession of child pornography.
“As a mother, I am deeply disturbed at how many predators are out there—online and in our communities—looking to harm children. Thanks to great police work, there are a few less in our midst today and that should serve as a bold warning to anyone looking to harm a child in Florida,” Moody said.