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Operation Cyber Springsting

Nets 15 Arrests in Florida’s Fight Against Online Predators

In a strategic crackdown on cyber-predators targeting minors, law enforcement agencies in Florida have announced the successful culmination of “Operation Cyber Springsting.” This covert initiative, spearheaded by the Citrus County Sheriff’s Office (CCSO) in collaboration with allied agencies, aimed to apprehend individuals seeking to engage in sexual activities with minors through online platforms.

During a press conference convened at the office’s Emergency Operations Center, Sheriff Mike Prendergast delivered a resolute message, detailing the apprehension of 15 individuals implicated in the operation. These individuals, oblivious to the fact that they were communicating with undercover agents posing as minors, brazenly exchanged explicit messages, images, and solicitations for sexual encounters.

Sheriff Prendergast underscored the gravity of the situation, emphasizing that some of the arrested individuals had gone to extreme lengths, traveling considerable distances in their pursuit of meeting minors for nefarious purposes. He condemned their actions as reprehensible and expressed gratitude for the collaborative efforts that led to their apprehension.

“This operation has successfully removed 15 despicable criminals from our streets, safeguarding our children from potential harm,” declared Sheriff Prendergast. He commended the exceptional partnership between law enforcement agencies and highlighted the dedication of the High Tech Crimes Unit (HTCU) in combating online predation.

The sheriff’s office disclosed the identities of the apprehended individuals, along with their charges and bond amounts:

  • John Steven Baretela Jr. (65), Brooksville, FL
  • Fredy Guillerno Betancourth Reyes (30), Tampa, FL
  • Kymani Josiah Bryan (22), Ocala, FL
  • Mitchel Ryan Carter (32), Dunnellon, FL
  • John Edward Hughes Jr. (40), Hernando, FL
  • Jose Alejandro Santana (29), Seffner, FL
  • Joseph Henry Sysol (37), Brooksville, FL
  • James Patton Dillman (43), Floral City, FL
  • Stephen Anthony Cisneros (27), Inverness, FL
  • Debra Fuller (64), Dunnellon, FL
  • Dylan Kelly (31), Citrus Springs, FL
  • William Joseph Lamberson (38), Brooksville, FL
  • Robert James Lewis (33), Ocala, FL
  • Mark Lloyd Robinson (36), Aripeka, FL
  • Ivy Tendler (53), Hernando, FL

Each individual faces a combination of charges ranging from “Travel to Seduce/Solicit Child in Sex Act” to “Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor,” indicative of the severity of their offenses.

As the community absorbs the news of these arrests, authorities underscore the importance of vigilance in safeguarding minors from online exploitation. “Operation Cyber Springsting” serves as a stark reminder of the persistent threat posed by cyber-predators and the unwavering commitment of law enforcement to protect vulnerable members of society.


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Patrick Zarrelli

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