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30 Arrested in Operation Protecting Children from Sexual Offenders, Predators

Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives recently arrested 30 suspects during a two week long investigation that focused on sexual predators who target children and convicted sexual predators and offenders who are required to comply with Florida’s registration laws, including current restrictions in place based on their status. It was Operation Child Protector III, and all the arrest details are below.

During the initiative, undercover detectives posed as children on social media platforms, mobile apps, and online dating sites to investigate those who prey upon and travel to meet children for unlawful sexual activity. Detectives also conducted a review of sexual offender/predator compliance with Florida’s registration laws and specifically focused on convicted sex offenders and sex predators with prior child victims within Polk County.




PCSO was assisted in the effort by the Auburndale Police Department, Okeechobee County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Florida Department of Corrections, and the Office of the State Attorney 10th Judicial Circuit, State Attorney Brian Haas.

In all, detectives arrested 30 suspects, who face a total of 75 felony and 2 misdemeanor charges which include: traveling to meet a minor for sex, attempted lewd battery, use of a computer to seduce a child, unlawful use of a two-way communication device, transmission of material harmful to a child, sexual battery, burglary, and failure to register as a sex offender.

“We will continue to conduct proactive operations like this to ensure our children are safe,” said Sheriff Grady Judd. “Thank you to our detectives and partnering agencies for your hard work to ensure our children are safe from predators who sexually abuse, groom, and corrupt our children. I say it all the time – 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.”

During the investigation of those who communicated online to have sex with minors, ten of the suspects communicated and engaged with, in a sexual manner, who they thought were children online. Two suspects showed up at an undercover location in Polk County at separate times to meet who they thought were children, to sexually batter them. Two of the suspects did not communicate with undercover detectives, but with an actual 14 and 13-year-old whom they traveled to sexually batter. Detectives obtained warrants for six other suspects; one was arrested in Polk County, one was arrested in Indian River County, one was arrested in Hillsborough County, one was arrested in Colorado, and two are still wanted.

Seven of the suspects sent sexually explicit images and/or videos to who they thought were 13, 14, or 15-year-old girls, or a 13-year-old boy.

Arrested:




25-year-old Jose Armando of Davenport

On February 13, 2023, detectives investigated a report of a 14-year-old girl who had been sexually battered by an adult. During the investigation, detectives learned that Armando had been communicating with the victim through social media and then arranged to travel to her to have sex. Armando drove to the victim’s parents’ home and picked up the 14-year-old, drove her to his home where he sexually battered the child. Armando told detectives that he met the child online and communicated with her through Instagram. He admitted to driving to the victim’s house, picking her up, and taking her to his house where he sexually battered her.

Armando was arrested for:
• One count sexual battery
• One count traveling to meet a minor for sex
• Interference with child custody

28-year-old Zackery Childress of Lakeland

On February 15, 2023, detectives investigated a report of a 13-year-old girl who had been sexually battered by an adult. During the investigation, detectives learned that Childress had been communicating with the victim through an online dating app and then arranged to travel sexually batter her.

Childress told the victim that he had two sexually transmitted diseases, but was on medication, and still wanted to have unprotected sex with her.

Childress drove to the victim’s parents’ home and entered the 13-year-old’s bedroom through a window and sexually battered the child. Childress told detectives that he met the child online and communicated with her through SnapChat. He admitted to driving to the victim’s house, entering her bedroom through a window, and sexually battering the child.

Childress was arrested for:
• One count sexual battery
• One count traveling to meet a minor for sex
• Once count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• Two counts burglary of a dwelling
• One count of unlawful sex with STD

25-year-old Leo Cintron of Lakeland

On February 7, 2023, Lewis engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 13-year-old boy. During the conversation, the “boy” told Cintron several times that he was only 13. Citron told the boy he still wanted to meet up and then graphically described the sex acts he wanted to perform.

Cintron traveled to the undercover location expecting to have sex with the 13-year-old boy.

He admitted to detectives he knew the person he was talking to was 13. Cintron was working as an umpire and referee for college and high school sports.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:
• One count traveling to meet a minor for sex
• One count lewd battery
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• One count use of a computer to solicit a child for sex

40-year-old Steven Hubbard of Ocala

On February 11, 2023, Hubbard engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 14-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told Hubbard several times that she was only 14. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, Hubbard sent sexually explicit images to the detective as well as instigated sexually explicit conversations.
Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Hubbard for:
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• Three counts transmission of harmful material to a minor

Hubbard told detectives he worked as a carnival/fair ride operator.

55-year-old Richard Kwolek of Barefoot Bay, Florida

On February 11, 2023, Kwolek engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 14-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told Kwolek several times that she was only 14. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, Kwolek sent sexually explicit images to the detective as well as instigated sexually explicit conversations.

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Kwolek for:
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• Four counts transmission of harmful material to a minor
• One count use of a computer to solicit a child for sex

37-year-old Thomas McIntyre of Lakeland

On February 9, 2023, McIntyre engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 14-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told McIntyre several times that she was only 14. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, McIntyre sent a sexually explicit video and several audio files to the detective as well as instigated sexually explicit conversations.

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for McIntyre for:
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• Thirteen counts transmission of harmful material to a minor
• One count use of a computer to solicit a child for sex

45-year-old Justin Sturtevant of Pueblo West, Colorado

On February 6, 2023, Sturtevant engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 14-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told Sturtevant several times that she was only 14. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, Sturtevant sent a sexually explicit image to the detective as well as instigated sexually explicit conversations.

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Sturtevant for:
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• One count transmission of harmful material to a minor
• One count use of a computer to solicit a child for sex

26-year-old Samuel Zoellner of St. Petersburg

On February 6, 2023, Zoellner engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 15-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told Zoellner several times that she was only 15. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, Zoellner sent sexually explicit images and video to the detective as well as instigated sexually explicit conversations.

Zoellner traveled to the undercover location expecting to have sex with the 15-year-old girl.

He was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with:
• One count traveling to meet a minor for sex
• One count lewd battery
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• One count use of a computer to solicit a child for sex
• Three counts transmission of harmful material to a minor
• Resisting with violence
• Resisting without violence

Outstanding Warrants:




35-year-old Bradley Hines of Pinellas Park

On February 6, 2023, Hines engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 13-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told Hines several times that she was only 13. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, Hines sent several sexually explicit images to the detective as well as instigated sexually explicit conversations.

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Hines for:
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• Eight counts transmission of harmful material to a minor

59-year-old Kenneth Niedt of Seffner

On February 7, 2023, Niedt engaged in an online conversation on a social networking site with an undercover detective who was posing as a 13-year-old girl. During the conversation, the “girl” told Niedt several times that she was only 13. Despite knowing he was communicating with a minor, Niedt instigated graphic sexually explicit conversations.

Detectives obtained an arrest warrant for Niedt for:
• One count criminal use of a two-way communication device
• One count transmission of harmful material to a minor

Sex Offenders/Predators

According to local law encorcement, there are 1,237 sexual offenders and 146 sexual predators registered in Polk County. These offenders and predators are checked every quarter by Polk detectives to ensure they are in compliance with Florida’s sexual offender/predator registration laws. The state requirement is for a check to be completed at least once a year.

During the initiative Polk County Sheriff’s Office detectives identified 27 individuals who were not in compliance with their registration responsibilities. Of those, 22 were arrested and eight had prior failure to comply with registration requirement charges. Arrest warrants have been issued for the remaining five violators.

Registered Sex Offenders/Predators Arrested:




Kevyn Baker, who resides in Mulberry, was arrested for failure to register a permanent residence and providing false registration information.

Brian Bowne, who resides in Lakeland was arrested for failure to register a vehicle. At the time of his arrest, Bowne was out on bond for possession of a firearm by a convicted felon.

Rickardo Brown, who resides in Lakeland was arrested for failure to register a vehicle.

John Burgess, who resides in Winter Haven was arrested for failure to register a vehicle.

Damien Clark, who is a transient in the Winter Haven area was arrested for failure to register a new address within 48 hours.

Dana Chiasson, who resides in Auburndale was arrested for failure to report a change of residence. He was arrested in Warren County, North Carolina and will be transported to Polk County at a later date.

Patricia Colbert, who resides in Lakeland was arrested for failure to register a vehicle.

Russell Crousore, who resides in Winter Haven was arrested for failure to register a vehicle.

Jim Davari, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to report employment.

Wayne Estey, who resides in Lakeland was arrested for failure to comply with registration requirement of reporting every 30 days.

Richard Gunter, who resides in Hollywood, Florida was arrested for failure to register a temporary address and six counts of video voyeurism.

Gerald Kelly, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to register a vehicle.

Michael Levieux, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to update a new address within 48 hours, possession of methamphetamine, and possession of drug paraphernalia.

Donald McIntyre, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to register internet identifiers.

David Rodgers, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to register two vehicles.

Carol Rood, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to register internet identifiers.

Jose Sosa, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for a violation of probation. At the time of his arrest, Sosa was on probation for charges in Hardee County.

Johnny Taylor, who resides in Winter Haven, was arrested failure to register as a sex offender within 48 hours of his release from prison and failing to register a new address with the FDHSMV within 48 hours.

Theodore Thorner, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to possess a valid Florida identification and failure to register a vehicle within 48 hours.

James Warren, who resides in Lakeland, was arrested for failure to register two vehicles.

Johnathan Whitfield, who resides in the area of S.R. 33 and Interstate 4 was arrested for failure to comply with registration requirement of reporting every 30 days.

Albert Wright, who resides in Winter Haven, was arrested for failure to report a vehicle.

Outstanding Warrants:

Johnny Clark, whose last known address is in Lakeland has a Polk County arrest warrant for failure to report a change of address.

Alexis Diaz-Toledo, who resides in Lake Wales, has a Polk County arrest warrant for failure to update his new residence.

Todd Johnson, who does not have a known address, has a Polk County arrest warrant for failure to report a change of address.

Shane Malpass, who resides in Lakeland, has a Polk County arrest warrant for failure to update a new address within 48 hours.

Terrell Timmerman, who resides in Lakeland, has a Polk County arrest warrant for failure to comply with registration requirement of reporting every 30 days.

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