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Former Boston Red Sox player, National Guard sergeant among 27 arrested in undercover child predator sting: JSO | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Twenty-seven men were arrested in an undercover sting that focused on identifying people who use the internet to solicit sex acts with children, Jacksonville Sheriff T.K. Waters announced during a press conference Monday.

Waters said the undercover operation, called “Valiant Knights,” began on April 24 and ended on April 28.

“Undercover detectives posing as children, chatted online with these adults. These adults solicited sexual activity and committed to engaging in sex acts with purported minors and pre-arranged locations,” Waters said.

Watch the sheriff’s full announcement in the video below:

According to JSO, once the adults arrived at the locations to meet the minors, they were immediately arrested, resulting in 24 arrests. Three additional predators were arrested after a follow-up investigation, Waters said.

The 27 men arrested range in age from 19 to 69 years old and come from different backgrounds. The men were arrested for a combination of serious felonies including coercing sexual activity for human trafficking.

Among the 27 men arrested in the sting, was Kevin Pearce, 58, a former Duval County Public Schools district maintenance employee.

“He traveled to a prearranged location with the intent of engaging in sexual conduct with a 13-year-old child,” Waters said.

Austin Maddox, a former MLB player for the Boston Red Sox, was also among the men arrested. Maddox played college baseball for the University of Florida, was in the minor leagues for six years, and was called up to the Red Sox in 2017 where he appeared in 13 games. He went back to the minors in 2018, had injury issues, and retired from baseball in 2020.

Mug Shot: Austin Maddox (Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.)

“JSO and our partners put the highest priority on the safety and security of our children. As the internet provides new and frightening opportunities for predators to victimize our children, our investigators, along with those with our partner agencies will continue to proactively identify and apprehend child predators before they have the opportunity to act upon their perversions,” Waters said.

Click the play button below to watch the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, along with local, state, and federal partners with the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, arrest these suspects during the 5-day “Operation Valiant Knights.”

Copyright 2024 by WJXT News4JAX – All rights reserved.

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