Marion County deputies arrest 20 men during undercover operation

Marion County deputies arrest 20 men during undercover operation
Published: May. 23, 2023 at 12:57 PM EDT
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OCALA, Fla. (WCJB) - The Marion County Sheriff’s Office announced the arrest of 20 men on Tuesday during an undercover operation to protect children.

Operation “M.A.P. MIRAGE” involved investigators going undercover and exchanging messages with men who were trying to have sex with children.

“These detectives can lay their heads on a pillow tonight, knowing that they truly spared some child from becoming a victim to these vile, disgusting, scumbags,” shared MCSO spokesperson Lt. Paul Bloom.

Fourteen men traveled to Marion County to meet a child between the ages of 14 and 16 years old. Instead of finding a child, they were met with law enforcement officers.

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“Tinder, Facebook, Instagram, those type of social media applications,” shared MCSO detective Chase King. “Our undercover detectives made it very clear what their age was and these individuals continued to have very sexual conversations with males and females that they believed were 14 or 15 years old.”

Nine men asked the undercover agents posing as children for sex. Some shared sexually explicit photos. Six of those men were arrested and warrants were issued for the remaining three.

Detectives said some predators traveled from Orlando and Jacksonville. Two suspects were previous sex offenders.

“Victor Aguilar, he came from Orlando,” shared detective King. “He’s already a convicted sex offender for similar type of activity he was arrested for a couple of years ago.”

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The following agencies also assisted in the investigation: ICAC North Florida Task Force, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Homeland Security Investigations, Belleview Police Department, Ocala Police Department, Gainesville Police Department, Citrus County Sheriff’s Office, and Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

“I am disgusted and dismayed that there are people in this world who seek to harm innocent children,” said Sheriff Billy Woods. “I will never stop devoting every resource I have at my disposal to bring to justice anyone trying to harm a child in my county. I am grateful for the dedication of each participant in this operation and their work to get these vile individuals into my jail.”

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