13 men arrested in Polk County child predator operation
WINTER HAVEN (FOX 13) - Thirteen men have been arrested in Polk County's latest crackdown on sexual predators in a weeklong undercover operation called Cyber Guardian Fall Haul.
The sheriff's office said the suspects who communicated with them believed they were communicating with children between the ages of 13 and 14 and thought they were soliciting them for sexual acts. The sheriff's office said all 13 suspects showed up at a Polk County location to meet who they thought were children. Many brought condoms and lubricants but were then greeted by detectives.
Of those arrested, Richard Hicks, of Lake County, was one of the most notable. Investigators say he was talking to an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old boy hoping to have a sexual encounter.
Detectives say Hicks said he was free of disease, even though he is HIV positive. They say he wanted to have sex with the child without a condom.
"He has a disease, and clearly wanted to engage in sex in a way that would promote this disease to the child," said Sheriff Grady Judd. "If that doesn't shock your soul, nothing will."
Judd pointed to another suspect, "Jimmy" Nguyen of Orlando, and said, "He is your poster child. Everybody pay attention. A child predator, is a child predator, is a child predator."
Judd pointed out that when Nguyen was in the military, he was sentenced to five years because of lewd behavior, but served only three.
"And guess what?" asked Judd. "He is out trying to have sex with 13-year-old girls again."
Investigators also arrested 22-year-old Robert Grassano-Mazeika, who said he works at Disney's Grand Floridian Hotel as a cook.
He allegedly lied about his age, saying he is 17-years-old in an attempt to convince the girl having sex with him would be legal.
The 13 men who were arrested were from Kissimmee, Monteverde, Lake Mary, Winter Haven and Holiday. Two were from Davenport and six were from Orlando.
Judd said two suspects also worked on Disney property, including a chef at the Grand Floridian resort and a food runner for the Boathouse restaurant, which is located at Disney Springs, but the restaurant is not operated by Disney.
"These predators are out there, trying to sexually seduce and violate children," said Sheriff Grady Judd in a statement. "They lurk in chat rooms and online, ready to groom children for sex. Fortunately, because of the great work of our detectives, at least 13 of them won't be doing that any time soon. The things that these predators say to children they believe are 13 and 14 are vile and disgusting. Even seasoned, trained detectives are repulsed. The bottom line is that these predators need to be locked up and kept away from children."