NINE MEN ARRESTED IN ST. JOHNS COUNTY IN OPERATION DOWNPOUR, ARRANGING FOR SEX WITH MINORS
A recent News4Jax story gives details into a recent investigation completed by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. The news release states that nine men ranging from the ages of 18 to 34 utilized the internet to meet and engage underage girls for purposes of having sexual activity. As is common in these types of stings, an undercover law enforcement officer posed as the underage girl. All nine men traveled to a predetermined location and instead of meeting a young female, were taken into custody by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation was run by a local task force composed of the U.S. Attorney’s Office, State Attorney’s Office for the Seventh Judicial Circuit, North Florida Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, Volusia County Sheriff’s Office, St. Augustine Beach Police Department, Orange Park Police Department and the St. John’s County Sheriff’s Office.
Operation “Downpour” resulted in arrests of individuals from different walks of life. As stated earlier there were men from ages 18 to 34 arrested. One individual, Clarence Thomas, appears to have been arrested in a prior case in 2015 for Unlawful Sexual Activity with a minor. The article also describes Thomas as a former part time Football Coach at Westside High School as well as being a former Corrections Officer. The operation also resulted in the arrest of Raymond Wygant, who is an active military member assigned to the 7th Infantry Division as a Defense System Operator. Operations like “Downpour” can catch literally anyone who has access to the internet who seeks underage children. This crime literally attracts all walks of life. These cases are commonly referred to as “Travelers,” in the court system.
These sting operations typically include an overwhelming amount of evidence against the accused. The conversation itself is normally very straight forward in which the undercover agents will clearly state that they are underage. In this sting, the undercovers posed girls under the age of 15. The undercovers will log into dating websites or chatrooms and begin conversations with the potential suspects online. The online conversation itself will be evidence used against the accused. Details such as what will happen when the meeting will occur, what to bring, and where to meet will all be discussed. The accused next will arrive at a pre-determined meeting but will not meet with a minor, but however will be taken into custody by a takedown team. Any items previously requested by the undercover that the accused brought to the pre-arranged meet will also be submitted into evidence. These items will be used in a trial to show that not only did the accused agree to meet for sex, but also brought the requested items to show there is not mistake in the accused’s mind as to the reason for the meet.
Other things that will be considered by a jury is the distance a person travels to meet a minor. Matthew Brown traveled from Gainesville, Florida. Brown’s defense will have to explain why Brown happened to travel all the way from Gainesville to St. Johns and arrived at the exact location given by the undercover. Other charges may arise out of the online conversation itself as often times the individuals seeking sex with a minor send nude photographs of themselves to the undercover agents.
Also what is important to note is that Law Enforcement waits until the operation is ended to post any information regarding the arrests as to hopefully not tip off any future suspects about the sting. The individuals charged will not even appear in the Jail Inmate Screen until after the press conference. Continue reading