Police arrested 28 men in Polk County during "Operation Cyber Hawk," an undercover operation aimed at luring sexual predators out of the woodwork.
Cops pretended to be 13- and 14-year-old girls and boys in online chatrooms as they worked from their headquarters, a wired house called "Four Corners." For four days, 24 hours a day, more than 50 police officers were in contact with more than 250 men from all over Florida — and even some from other countries.
“They want to prey on 13- and 14-year-old girls and that is what we found this weekend,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told FOXNews in an interview. “The vast majority of them did confess and some of them had lame excuses.”
When the predators wanted to speak to the little girls with whom they thought they were chatting, female officers spoke on the phone, using a younger sounding voice. The predators set up meetings with the youngsters and, when they arrived at the house for the meeting, police nabbed them.
“Once the door's open, there you see undercover agents,” Judd said. “It’s not only deputies, it's agents from state and federal government that worked with us as well as law enforcement agencies in North Carolina.”
“We arrested people in BMWs, in Mercedes, in rental cars, Disney employees, Boys and Girls Club employees, vice presidents of a big corporation,” Judd continued. “Every walk of life, we put them in jail.”
Three of the arrested men told authorities they were employees of Walt Disney Co., which operates theme parks in the area, according to the sheriff's report. Some were unemployed or worked as laborers; others were in food service, sales or finance. One man said he was an IBM consultant; another a vice president for a South Florida real estate company. They ranged in age from college students to men in their 40s and 50s.
All three were charged with soliciting a minor via the Internet and attempted lewd battery. One also was charged with contributing to the delinquency of a minor.
The Disney employees were Julio Segundo, a 21-year-old intern; Richard Gaugh, a 55-year-old part-time instructor at Disney's Animal Kingdom; and Thierry Ferron, a 44-year-old electronics technician, according to the sheriff's office.
"We take allegations of this nature seriously," Disney spokeswoman Zoraya Suarez said in an e-mail. "When we receive confirmation of these allegations, we will take appropriate action."
Disney would not comment further on what the employees did or whether they had routine contact with children. The company said all cast members must pass background checks when they're hired.
Segundo and Gaugh remained in jail awaiting bail on Monday. Ferry posted bond and was released Sunday. It was not immediately known if the men had attorneys.
Judd said that these predators are on the hunt for children, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
“What we don’t know is were they going to talk those children into going with them?" he asked. "Were they going to abduct them? Were they going to become scared after engaging in sex intercourse and say ‘we need to just kill them?’”