Employees at SeaWorld and Disney World have been busted in a child sex sting, dubbed Operation April’s Fools. The two men were part of a group of 18 individuals wanted or arrested in the operation. One of the men worked as a security guard at Disney World while the other was employed as a janitor at SeaWorld.
The child sex sting operation is being run by Florida law enforcement and recently saw a total of 18 men busted, with one arrest outstanding. The sting was dubbed Operation April’s Fools, as it ran through the first week of April.
— WISH-TV (@WISH_TV) April 5, 2016
According to the Polk County Sheriff’s office, the men who were arrested responded to fake online ads and profiles posted by detectives posing either as children or as guardians of children. Reportedly, investigators from several Florida counties were involved in the operation.
As reported by WFTV9, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a statement after the arrests, “These freaks and these deviants are looking for our children every day online.”
“We have to search out these predators before they get to our children. Any child with a social media device means a predator has access to that child.”
The statement from the Polk County Sheriff’s office said two of the suspects solicited a man they believed was the father of a 10-year-old girl in order to have sex with her. Reportedly, some of the suspects sent pornographic photos of themselves to the undercover investigators, while others asked for nude photos of the fictitious children.
Reportedly, Jeffrey Erich Binder, the 26-year-old Disney World security guard, arrived at the undercover location given to him, believing he was to have sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old girl.
When arrested, Binder told detectives, “Now I got to tell my work and family that I got arrested for soliciting a 14-year-old for sex.”
Reportedly, in the online chats and texts, the man told the undercover detective he was planning to do “everything sexual” to the girl. When he arrived at the child sex sting location, he was carrying condoms and was reportedly still wearing his Disney World security guard uniform.
The security guard was charged with use of a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor, attempted lewd battery, and use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony.
Video: 17 charged with child sex crimes in Polk County https://t.co/xPBhFcbWr3 pic.twitter.com/1zIBW62Ujx
— WESH 2 News (@WESH) April 5, 2016
In the case of 19-year-old Arthur Joseph Nelson, the SeaWorld janitor, police told a similar story. Reportedly, the man told the police after his arrest that he believed the girl he was meeting for child sex was 14 years of age. Reportedly, he told the police this would have been a first time for him, telling them he was “high” and “horny.”
Other suspects in the child sex sting were further charged with possession of firearm during commission of felony, drug possession, and possession of drug paraphernalia
In the case of the SeaWorld security guard, he was quickly fired. However, the Disney World security guard has reportedly been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the charges.
According to statements by representatives of both theme parks, the safety of their customers is paramount, and they say they undertake extensive background checks of their employees. However, according to police, the SeaWorld security guard did have a previous arrest for misdemeanor domestic violence.
As reported by the International Business Times, the arrests of employees of both these theme parks is especially troubling, as these employees work around children all the time. They quote a CNN investigation back in 2014 that found 35 Disney workers, as well as two SeaWorld and five Universal employees, had been arrested since 2006 for sex crimes or attempted child sex crimes and for child pornography.
The other suspects arrested in Operation April’s Fools reportedly included a football coach, a hospital technician, a former firefighter, and an airline customer services manager. All 18 suspects face a total of 103 charges (97 felonies, 6 misdemeanors). Nine of the men brought condoms, candy, and illegal narcotics to the undercover location.
The youngest was reportedly 19-years-old, while the oldest man arrested was 60 years of age. The 18 suspects have a combined arrest history of 24 previous felonies and 24 previous misdemeanors on different charges.
Investigators involved in the child sex sting warn that suspected child predators use special apps to conceal their actions, and they urge parents to be the “first line of defense to protect their children.”
The names of the 17 arrested suspects in the child sex sting are Christopher John Smith, 22, Arthur Joseph Nelson, 19, Jeffrey Erich Binder, 26, Michael Fernandez, 21, Michael Dean Thompson, 20, Jerin Jolly James, 28, Alejandro Pineda, 26, Howard Bishop III, 60, Robert Michael Gordon, 20, Mahesh Radhakrishnan, 32, Preston Lee Bousquet, 28, Tyler James Knight, 26, Pedro Emilio Portillo, 24, Samuel Orlin Hightower, 22, Joshua Dean Southerland, 19, Larry Alfred Treharn, Jr., 33, and Keith Hartford Ingles, 59.
One more suspect remains to be arrested, namely Brantley Ashton Thompson, 24, of Auburndale.
[Photo via Shutterstock]