35 arrested after sting operation in Manatee County

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Posted: Monday, March 25, 2013 4:23 pm | Updated: 11:47 am, Wed Nov 12, 2014.

BRADENTON - Manatee County Sheriff Brad Steube describes them as "sick individuals": 35 men now facing felony charges after they were caught in yet another online sting operation aimed at protecting children.

They could be your neighbors, or even your child's teacher. But all they are now is accused: thirty-five men, all arrested last week, all facing felony sex crimes charges following what authorities called "Operation Green Shepherd II".

"There was a maintenance man, someone employed by the Army National Guard, a mechanic, a student," said Sheriff Steube.

Also picked up was Phillip Cornell, a teacher at Chamberlain High School in Tampa.  Daniel Konovalchuk was also arrested, he's a nursing trainee at Manatee Memorial Hospital; and Brion Bennett, a youth choir leader from Ellenton, is also among those facing charges.

"With the number of arrests we make with these and other types of investigations we do, I'm not shocked with anything anymore," said Steube.

The suspects chatted online with decoys posing as 14-year-olds, ultimately agreeing to meet for sex at a house in Manatee County. But instead of finding a child eager to please, suspects found themselves cuffed and booked.

"The idea that we're trying to portray here to the people that go on these computers and prey on our children is that this area of Florida is going to be more difficult for them to do this," said Steube.

Authorities say this type of operation highlights the need for parents to take charge.  "It's a message to parents, you know look, law enforcement is doing their part but parents have to do their part, they're the first line of defense," said Lt. Todd Shear of the Manatee County Sheriff's Office.

Experts say when it comes to online safety, parents shouldn't be afraid to step on some toes.  "Pay close attention, simple things like being aware and checking text messages, checking IM's, checking Facebook pages," said Mandy O'Malley of the Child Protection Center of Sarasota.

The Manatee County Sheriff's Office was assisted in the operation by: Department of Homeland Security, FDLE, Bradenton, Sanford and St. Petersburg Police Departments and the Sarasota, Polk, Lee, Seminole, Hardee County Sheriff’s Offices are assisting in the investigation.

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Welcome to the discussion.


  • talknstang posted at 1:22 pm on Sun, Oct 13, 2013.

    talknstang Posts: 3

    so you're saying that you have to believe everything that everyone tells you on the internet? so if they post a photo of somebody who looks well into their 20's, yet they say they are 14, you have to believe them? THAT IS PREPOSTEROUS. There are rules that must be followed and they are breaking every single one of them. WAKE UP PEOPLE. The amount of deception is off the charts and unnecessary, but this is what they have to do in order to "cook the books" and LIE. These stings are not catching true predators and the data shows!

  • pngv12 posted at 11:58 am on Fri, Apr 12, 2013.

    pngv12 Posts: 1

    As a mother I believe you are missing the POINT.
    Regardless WHERE this sick guys contacted the "minor"/or "minor" contacted them, the MAIN thing is.....
    All of those guys were arrested when they were going to MEET the minor BEING AWARE that the person they were going to meet was 14 YEARS OLD.
    do you see my PIONT here??
    Once you are inform of the age of the person you are chating with.....IS ON YOU TO KNOW WHATS RIGHT AND WHATS WRONG.
    Police DID NOT put a gun on those guys had and told them "GO GO MEET A CHILD FOR XXX".

    I personally know one of the guys who is in Jail at this moment and he claims to be inocent.....my reply to that??? HAHAHAHAHA


  • GS posted at 1:09 am on Tue, Mar 26, 2013.

    GS Posts: 1

    For anybody reading this just remember there are things they don't tell you. Things like very few, if any, of these arrests came about as the result of a chat room conversation. Quite a few in this operation originated on an ADULT dating site called datehookup.com. A site that not only requires you to acknowledge being 18 or older but also requires you to make a profile stating your age and the system won't let you list an age younger than 18 or enter a birth date indicating you're less than 18 years of age. Now ask yourself where would a real child predator go looking for children? An adult dating site that even if minor children are posing as adults there's no way to tell which profiles are theirs? Do you seriously believe that? Wouldn't it make more sense to hang out on sites where children hang out?


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