Some police officers and deputies in Florida have been accused of using online entrapment to arrest innocent men and seize their property, even after criminal charges are dropped or never filed.
Florida's Contraband Forfeiture Act allows for law enforcement agencies to seize property from people simply accused of committing felonies. The suspects do not have to be charged or convicted.
WTSP reports that some officers go undercover on the web, answer ads placed by adults for adults, then pretend to be minors and encourage reluctant men to make sexual advances online (video below).
Because these sex stings involve men who are allegedly traveling to solicit, seduce, or entice a non-existent underage child played by a cop, the mens' cars can be confiscated by the police under the Contraband Forfeiture Act.
The men accused of felonies have to spend thousands of dollars to get their cars back. If a suspect cannot afford to get his car back, then the police or sheriff's department keeps the vehicle or sells it at an auction for money.
The Polk County Sheriff's Office, which runs Central Florida's Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) task force, which has seized thousands in cash and cars from suspects. That task force is now under investigation by the U.S Department of Justice. Osceola County, Pinellas County, Lee County Sheriff's Offices and the Clearwater Police Department have reportedly raked in money and property from these sex stings as well.
Men who showed no interest in the fake kids would still be arrested as a "sexual predator" if they traveled to meet the adults (cops) who placed or answered ads.
According to RawStory.com, some law enforcement departments actually broke their own rules by steering the online conversations back to sex after the man has denied interest.
While prosecutors have thrown out the flimsy cases and judges have condemned the sex stings, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd recently tried to blame the media.
"The concern is that you inflate your investigative reporting to make it glitzy," Sheriff Judd told WTSP. "Go talk to the mommas of these babies that are being stalked online."
However, a local mother expressed her opposition to the sex stings because her adult son, 22, was targeted, after he responded to a fake (cop) ad of a 26-year-old woman on CraigsList, who drew him in and switched her age to 13.
"He had a life of promise, he had an education, all that's been shot," said the mom.