KEY WEST, FL – May 20, 2020 - According to an online news report published May 19, 2020, on MiamiHerald.com, a 55-year-old man from Key West, Florida, was arrested after law enforcement allege the man solicited girls for sex. According to law enforcement, some of the children were as young as 12 years old. The 55-year-old suspect was interested in having sex with children while on a trip to the Philippines that he had organized, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The suspect was arrested and jailed at the Stock Island Detention Center. The suspect´s bail bond is $450,000. The suspect was taken into custody at his home, which is located at a trailer park on 14th Street. Prosecuting the child sex solicitation case is the Monroe County State Attorney’s Office, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. The suspect´s court date is June 5, 2020.
The Florida Department of Law Enforcement coordinated the arrest with both the Key West Police Department and agents working for Homeland Security Investigations. The suspect has been charged with nine felonies, which include the promotion of sexual acts by children, solicitation of minors via electronic devices, and possession and transmission of child pornography. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement´s investigation began when their agents were contacted about the suspect´s online activity. The investigation uncovered 1,000s of pages of Facebook conversations and other documents of online conversations the suspect had with children.
The news report quoted the Florida Department of Law Enforcement as stating, “Between March 2018 and January 2019, West solicited individuals, attempting to have sexual relations with underage girls as young as 12 years old during a scheduled trip to the Philippines.” The quote was part of a new released distributed by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Also, the report states that the suspect “misrepresented his age” while engaged in some of the conversations with the children. The suspect was also found to be in possession of images and videos depicting minors in sex acts, according to the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.
The suspect may face additional criminal charges as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement continues their investigation of the facts and circumstances of the case.
Solicitation of a Minor Using a Computer or Electronic Device
According to Florida criminal statutes, Florida makes it a crime to solicit minors for sex by use of a computer, internet service or internet-connected device. According to Florida Statute § 847.0135, an individual may not use an internet service, a bulletin service, a computer service, or any electronic device with transmission and storage capabilities to solicit, entice, lure or seduce a child to engage in a sexual act. In Florida, an actual minor does not need to be involved, or an actual sexual act doesn’t need to occur for a crime to be committed. Undercover child sex sting operations do not always include meetups. IN Florida, a law enforcement officer is permitted to make an arrest as soon as an individual attempts to solicit a minor, or who the suspect believes to be a minor even if the “child” is actually an undercover law enforcement officer.
In the State of Florida, solicitation of a minor through an internet service or computer is charged as a felony in the third-degree. If convicted, the defendant is facing punishments of up to five years in prison, sexual offender registration for life, a lengthy probationary period, and a fine of up to $5,000.