Deputies arrested at least 20 suspects during the past two weeks in an investigation into online solicitation of minors, McLennan County Sheriff Parnell McNamara announced.
In a Wednesday press conference, the sheriff said detectives spent three weeks pretending to be children online. They ended up arresting men and women from McLennan, Bosque and Limestone counties who thought they were meeting up with “young, underaged teenagers.”
Suspects suggested meet-up locations ranging from their own homes to their places of work to engage in sex acts with minors during their lunch break.
Detective Joseph Scaramucci said others wanted to meet at popular Waco restaurants and shopping centers, such as Taco Bueno, Central Texas Marketplace, an H-E-B grocery, Home Depot, Whitehall Park and McDonald’s.
McNamara said those arrested varied in age from 19 to 63, and detectives made five arrests in a single day of the investigation.
“The response was incredible; these creeps came out of the woodwork,” he said.
In a 12-hour period, there were close to 180 responses to the detectives’ online posts, he said, adding he was surprised at the response.
“I don’t think any of us had any idea we would end up with this amount of actual arrests,” McNamara said.
He declined to release the exact websites involved and categorized those arrested as child predators.
“I think it’s extremely dangerous. These people are shopping in the same places we shop,” he said.
McNamara emphasized the importance of educating children, especially if they are going to use the Internet.
Detective Brad Bond gave examples of ways to stay knowledgeable about children’s activities, such as maintaining access to Facebook accounts and looking over phone records.
“Parents do need to monitor what their kids are doing. All of these people agreed to meet up around the time school was ending,” Bond said.
Scaramucci and Bond said they thought of the idea while brainstorming ways they could be more preventive, rather than simply responding to assaults after they occur.
The two spent several hours outside of work texting and messaging the suspects to keep up the investigation, and they said they would continue this type of sting now that it has proved successful.
“If you’re online thinking you’re going to meet children for sex, just bear in mind you might be speaking to me or Brad,” Scaramucci warned.
Each of the 20 people arrested have been charged with online solicitation of a minor.
Deputies say additional charges are being added, including tampering with evidence, federal probation revocation and tampering with government documents.
Those arrested are:
Cody Lowenthal, 29, of Groesbeck, arrested at Central Texas Marketplace
John Hinson, 25, of Lacy Lakeview, arrested at a Wal-Mart store
Rhakeem James, 22, of Waco, arrested at a Dollar Store
Charles Thiel, 19, of Hewitt, arrested at a gas station
Chelsea Robinson, 22, of Lacy Lakeview, arrested at a Home Depot
Raymond Shattuck, 29, of China Spring, arrested at an H-E-B
Dale Patrick, 30, of Cranfills Gap, arrested at a Taco Bueno
Cory Eary, 28, of Lorena, arrested at an IGA
Charles Ramirez, 19, of Hewitt, arrested at an apartment complex
John Rodriguez, 22, of Waco, arrested at Cargill
Conner Beam, 19, of Woodway, arrested walking down Estates Drive
Breonna Smith, 20, of Waco, arrested at home
Jonas Green, 63, of Hewitt, arrested at home
Chris Aguilar, 33, of Waco, arrested at home
Ruben Gonzalez, 25, of Mexia, arrested during a traffic stop on U.S. Highway 84
William Vasquez, 20, of Waco, arrested at Whitehall Park
Chris Pena, 28, of Waco, arrested at home
Eduardo Briseno-Perez, 27, of Waco, arrested at a McDonald’s
Brandon Selenksky, 19, of Waco, arrested at a friend’s home
Laramie Jowers, 24, of Waco, arrested at Service King Collision Repair