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Undercover Operation Busts Online Sex Crimes Against Children in Central Florida | #childpredator | #onlinepredator | #sextrafficing


During an 8-day-long Central Florida undercover investigation, named “Operation Child Predator V,” Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives, along with the Auburndale Police Department, Davenport Police Department, Lakeland Police Department, Lake Wales Police Department, and Hardee County Sheriff’s Office, charged eight suspects with crimes related to those who prey upon and travel to meet children for unlawful sexual activity.

The suspects communicated with and solicited who they thought were children or adults who had access to children online. Five suspects showed up to an undercover location in Polk County at separate times to sexually batter children. Those five wanted to pay an adult hundreds of dollars to have sex with who they thought was a child – they were charged with human trafficking, a life felony.

Detectives obtained arrest warrants for three other suspects who committed crimes against who they thought were children online; two of those suspects are in custody, and one is still at large, according to local law enforcement.

“We conduct proactive operations like this to help keep our children safe,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “I’m so thankful for our detectives and partnering agencies for their hard work to keep our children safe from predators who sexually abuse, groom, and corrupt our children. Parents need to be ‘all up in their child’s business’ when it comes to electronic devices that give them access to online gaming, mobile applications, texting, or the internet. Check their devices regularly, and ensure parental controls are enabled to keep predators like these away from your kids.”

In all, detectives filed 27 felony charges against eight suspects. Detectives charged 16 Central Florida registered sexual offenders and predators during the recent initiative.

SUSPECTS ARRESTED:

1. 41-year-old Larry William Hayes, of Plant City, FL. Hayes sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. Hayes communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay $250.00 to perform sex acts on the child. Hayes also sent several explicit images of his genitalia to the undercover detective. Hayes traveled to the undercover location and was arrested. He told detectives that he is retired from the U.S. Army, and is married with three children.

Hayes was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Human trafficking
  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Traveling to meet a minor
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony

2. 37-year-old Edmundo Dasilva, of Holly Springs, North Carolina. Dasilva sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay $60.00 to perform sex acts on the child. He said that he would be traveling through Florida and would like to meet, and that he had just turned 18 years old. Dasilva traveled to the undercover location and was arrested. He had two condoms in his pocket. He told detectives that he is married and that he works for Homeland Security as a Transportation Security Officer.

Dasilva was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Human trafficking
  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Traveling to meet a minor
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony

3. 29-year-old Nelson Louis, of Tampa, FL. Louis sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and said he “just wanted to have fun before he went to work.” He agreed to pay $100.00 for a half hour of sex with the child. He traveled to the undercover location and was arrested.

Louis was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Human trafficking
  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Traveling to meet a minor
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony

4. 27-year-old Hasan Abu Halemeh, of Brandon, FL. Abu Halemeh sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay $225.00 to perform sex acts on the child. He asked if the girl was a virgin and if he would be “her first.” He traveled to the undercover location and was arrested.

Abu Halemeh was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Human trafficking
  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Traveling to meet a minor
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony

5. 45-year-old Willie Merrill, of Plant City, FL. Merrill sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay $80.00 to perform sex acts on the child. He traveled to the location with the cash and a condom in his pockets. After being arrested, detectives learned he is a registered sex offender for a 2005 conviction of statutory rape in Georgia. He was previously arrested by PCSO in 2017 during an undercover prostitution investigation, for which he spent 364 days in jail.

Merrill was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Human trafficking
  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Traveling to meet a minor
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony
  • Attempted traveling to meet a minor
  • Attempted use of computer to solicit guardian

6. 34-year-old Brandon Ray, of Mulberry, FL. Ray sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay $100.00 to perform sex acts on the child. He repeatedly asked for photos of the child and also said, “I’ve watched enough to catch a predator show on TV” and also said, “Grady don’t play.” Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and took him into custody on March 7, 2024. He told detectives he is a bus mechanic employed by Polk County Public Schools.

Ray was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:

  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony

7. 45-year-old Manuel Canasi, of Land O’ Lakes, FL. Canasi sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay $100 for a half hour alone with the child. He sent the undercover detective a screenshot of Sheriff Judd holding a news conference, saying, “That Sheriff out there is a hard a** and doesn’t play.” The suspect tried several times to travel to the undercover location but was unable due to his job and other family obligations (he is married and has a son and two teenaged daughters). Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and he was taken into custody in Pasco County.

Canasi is charged with:

  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felon

WANTED:

61-year-old John Adams, of Dunedin, FL. Adams sent a social media message in response to an ad posted online by an undercover detective. He communicated with an adult who had access to a child, and expressed his desire to pay to perform sex acts on the child. He said he was a gentleman and respectful and that he wanted to “enjoy this experience with her.” Detectives obtained a warrant for his arrest and he is still at large.

Adams is charged with:

  • Use of computer to solicit guardian
  • Use of two-way communication device to commit a felony

If you have information regarding Adams’ whereabouts and wish to remain anonymous, contact Heartland Crime Stoppers or call 1-888-400 TIPS (8477).



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