The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office Friday announced the arrest of 12 suspects, charging them with trying to engage in sexual activity with a child or related offences.
The Citrus County Sheriff’s Office’s High Tech Crimes Unit released the results of Operation Lucky Strike, an undercover Internet Crimes Against Children operation to apprehend internet cyber predators who attempted to engage in sexual activity with a child.
Over the course of the operation, CCSO deputies, along the US Secret Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, the Hernando County Sheriff’s Office, the Sumter County Sheriff’s Office, and the Tavares Police Department, worked together to make the arrests, according to the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office.
As part of the operation, law enforcement officials posed as minors on websites waiting to be solicited through online messages by those arrested. Those arrested acknowledged the child’s age, but still sent “sexually explicit pictures, messages and detailed requests of various sexual activities they wanted to perform with the child, according to the sheriff’s office media release.
“Some had driven over an hour thinking they were meeting a minor to engage in sexual activity, but were luckily greeted by law enforcement personnel,” according to the media release.
“These abhorrent and sick individuals prey upon children for their own perverted benefit. These individuals knowingly send vile and sexually explicit messages to minors online, and even travel hours to meet up with a child with the intention to carry out these repulsive acts if not something worse,” said Sheriff Mike Prendergast in the release. “Preying on children is absolutely despicable. I am incredibly proud of the extraordinary partnership between our agency and the law enforcement agencies who assisted us in bringing these monsters to justice and off of our streets …”
The following subjects were arrested in Citrus County during this operation:
Cristian Gabriel Rosado-Marrero, 27, of Summerfield. Deputies charged him with travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Bond was $27,000.
Devin Michael Cordeiro, 26, of Brooksville. He was charged with Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Bond was $27,000.
Franklin Lezama, 31, of Bradenton. He was charged with Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act, Transmission of Harmful Material to Minor, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device, Carrying a Concealed Weapon with No License, and Possession of a Firearm by a Convicted Felon. His bond is $72,000.
Jeff D. Adams, 46, of Crystal River. He was charged with Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Bond set at $27,000.
Sean Robert Mooney, 40, of Homosassa. He was charged with Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Bond was set at $27,000.
Robert Allan Rankin, 31, of Hernando. He was charged with Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession of Paraphernalia. His total bond was $3,000. According to the release, he drove another individual to the meeting location.
The following subjects were arrested on Citrus County warrants as part of this operation:
Matthew Leathers, 40, of Palm Bay. He was charged with two Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor, and Computer Pornography: Seduce, Solicit, Lure, or Entice a Child to Engage in Any Illegal Act, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. His bond was $4,000.
Glenn Cunningham, 3, of Homosassa, two Counts of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor, Computer Pornography: Seduce, Solicit, Lure, or Entice a Child to Engage in Any Illegal Act, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Total bond set at $8,000.
James Patrick Lake, 51, of Tampa. He was charged with Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor, and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Total bond set at $4,000.
Marc Philip Werner Lovric, 40, of Beverly Hills. He was charged with Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Total bond set at $4,000.
Alex Anthony Francis, 32, of Orlando. He was charged with Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor and Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communication Device. Total bond set at $4,000.
Ralph Joseph Perkins, 53, of Tampa. He was charged with failing to register all electronic mail and identifiers Total bond set at $2,000.
If you suspect someone is committing crimes against our youth, the CCSO wants you to call (352) 249-2790 to report your suspicions to our office.
Fred Hiers is a reporter at the Citrus Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.
For the past 36 years, as part of the Key Training Center’s adult day training program, clients could work in the workshop.
The center had a long-standing contract with ClosetMaid, and clients worked at various tasks, from assembling brackets to packaging them.
They sat at tables together, chatting with each other or a Key Center workshop instructor as they worked.
They were paid at a piece-work rate and received a paycheck each month.
For some, their paycheck might be $10. The highest amount was around $400.
But the amount didn’t matter.
It was always about the feeling of accomplishment, the reward for their work.
“For some of them, they’d have someone take them to the bank so they could cash their check and then go to the store to buy something for themselves or someone else,” said Barbara Branch, Key Training Center adult day training director. “It was important to them, and this has been devastating for them.”
“We’ve known about this for about a year, and have had this in the plans for a while, but it’s still hard,” said Melissa Walker, Key Training Center executive director. “So, now we’re making changes to our adult day services.”
In 2014, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) implemented the CMS Final Rule that requires all states to increase opportunities for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities to “access employment in competitive integrated settings,” meaning a Key Center client could not work in the workshop for less than minimum wage.
“It became clear to us that, to be able to receive the Home Community Based Services Medicaid waiver, which is almost 60 percent of our funding, we could no longer continue (with the workshop),” Walker said.
However, with the closing of the two workshops, one on the Lecanto campus and the other in Inverness, no Key Center employee was laid off, and no client was left with nothing to do.
“We looked at our day service program and asked, ‘What can we do to be able to work with this new transition plan from the state?’ Basically, we’re able to continue the day services program we’ve always had (minus) the work part.”
Clients can still volunteer in the community, and the clients who are in the supported employment program, working at places in the community such as Publix or WaWa, still work at their jobs as employees.
Clients can still take classes for math, science, reading, writing, art and other subjects. But now, to fill in the time that had been workshop hours, the center is expanding its Life Enrichment program to include activities and clubs such as a walking club, basketball club, music club, gardening, Zumba, yoga, a fishing club, an art class, a kitchen prep class and a storytellers club.
Also in the plans: a Career Exploration program, which will be for clients whose goal is to work in the community, but they’re not ready for the supported employment program. This will be a “get ready for a job” type of program.
“The main thing is to get the word out to the families about what’s happening here,” Barbara Branch said, “and for us to get used to the ‘new new.’”
Nancy Kennedy can be reached at 352-564-2927 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Not letting the prediction of bad weather deter the St. Patrick’s Day Parade, Inverness officials are pushing the popular parade and entertainment to Sunday.
The original plan in case of bad weather was to cancel the Saturday parade but move most of the entertainment to the next day, Sunday, March 19.
But Woody Worley, the city’s director of parks and recreation, told the Chronicle Friday that rather than cancel the popular parade, all is being moved over to Sunday, including the parade.
“The parade is part of the event and we wanted to make that happen as well,” Worley said.
Worley and others spent Friday contacting parade participants and downtown businesses about the change and to ensure they still wanted to participate.
Moving the event and trying to get the word out is not an easy task.
“(But) this is a part of what we do in Inverness, and it’s what makes Inverness a small town done right.”
Saturday’s forecast led city officials to change the St. Patrick’s Day events.
According to the National Weather Service there’s an 80 percent chance of rain and a possibility of thunderstorms after 11 a.m. Saturday. Winds are expected to reach 14 mph, with gusts as high as 22 mph.
For Sunday, the chance of rain drops to 40 percent and no prediction of thunderstorms. Winds could reach 14 mph with gusts up to 22 mph.
Sunday evening, the chance of rain will remain at 40 percent with similar wind conditions.
A combination of 25 floats, marching bands, and other attractions will make up in the parade, Worley said.
Worley said there haven’t been any marching bands in the parade for the past few years, so seeing them back would be welcomed by the city.
The parade’s route will be along North Apopka Avenue, Main Street, Pine Avenue, and Dampier Street. The parade will begin at 4 p.m.
The Celtic band North of Argyll will play beginning at 2 p.m. and stop at 4 p.m. for the parade and the city’s leprechaun costume contest for boys and fairy costume contest for girls.
The band will again begin playing at about 5:30 p.m. until 7 p.m.
The city began its St. Patrick’s Day annual parade tradition in 2011. In 2021 it was cancelled because of the COVID-19 pandemic, but was again held in 2022.
About 1,000 spectators for the parade are expected, given previous St. Patrick’s Day parades, but that could change given that it’s been moved to Sunday.
The entertainment district will also remain active downtown. The entertainment district allows patrons to buy beer or wine in one business and carry their drinks with them as they walk through the downtown and visit other establishments.
Here is some St. Patrick’s Day trivia.
Legend has it that Saint Patrick cleared Ireland of all its snakes, leaving the country one of the few places on earth where the legless reptiles are not found in the wild.
According to legend, Saint Patrick traveled from Britain to Ireland in the fifth century to do missionary work.
Once in Ireland he was attacked by a group of snakes and in return, Saint Patrick sent them all into the ocean. Serpents are a symbol of the devil in the Christian Bible.
Is the story true?
Well, nearly 30,000 years ago Ireland was covered in ice, which made it too cold for reptiles
As the world warmed and the glaciers receded about 10,000 years ago, some plants and animals recolonized the island from mainland Europe, but not snakes.
Meanwhile, the rising sea levels cut off Ireland and because of Ireland’s cold weather and a climate not one that snakes enjoy, the country has remained snake-free.
Or, Saint Patrick drove them into the ocean. You pick.
Fred Hiers is a reporter at the Citrus Chronicle. Email him at email@example.com.