The Walton County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) announces the arrest of two (2) Walton County men for soliciting minors for sex over the internet. The arrest come after an intensive week-long undercover operation involving multiple law enforcement agencies determined they were using the internet to arrange sexual encounters with minors.
Operation Blue Shepherd began June 20 with 30 officers from local, state and federal agencies participating. Officers conducted the undercover investigation from a house in the northeast part of Pensacola. Officers used various social networking and E-commerce sites to respond to advertisements of a sexual nature and to place similar advertisements. The operation netted a total of 25 individuals who all lived in and around the Florida Panhandle area.
The suspects specifically described various sexual acts they were going to do with the male and female children ages 12 to 14 whom they believed they were talking with. Many of the suspects who thought they were talking with children were actually talking to Walton County Deputies. All of the suspects, except one who took a taxi, drove to the undercover house with the intent to perform these sexual acts with the children. Upon arrival, they were arrested and questioned.
Agencies participating in Operation Blue Shepherd were the State Attorney's Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Immigration and Customs Enforcement , Naval Criminal Investigative Service, Escambia County Sheriff's Office, Santa Rosa County Sheriff's Office, Okaloosa County Sheriff's Office, Walton County Sheriff's Office, Alachua County Sheriff's Office, Gainesville Police Department, Fort Walton Beach Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation.
Most of the agencies are members of the North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which funded the operation, and used it as a means of cracking down on internet sexual crimes against children.
Arrested from Walton County were:
Christopher Saldana, 24, of 36 Bay Cove Freeport, Florida. Charged with using a computer to solicit parent/guardian consent, travel to meet/use computer to solicit guardian, using a 2-way communication device to facilitate felony, and possession of marijuana not more than 20 grams.
Richard Mays, 26, of 206 Brown Mason Rd. DeFuniak Springs, Florida. Charged with using a computer to solicit parent/guardian consent, travel to meet/use computer to solicit guardian, and using a 2-way communication device to facilitate felony.