Police said that they arrested a Florida man after he posted an ad on Craigslist seeking a "daughter" and sent a number of inappropriate messages to someone he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.
When officials got wind of the advertisement, posted by 40-year-old Jonathan L. Petitta, a detective went undercover and responded online, police officers with the Largo, Florida, department said, according to WTVT.
The detective posed as a 14-year-old girl, and Petitta kept responding to the messages, even after he believed that the person he was talking to was underage by several years.
Petitta sent a number of "graphic and very sexually explicit" texts to the detective and said several times that he knew the girl was 14. Once officers came to his home, he reportedly confessed to exchanging the messages with the young girl and led investigators to believe that he might have interacted in person with other minors.
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They also found that due to his occupation, he knew an extensive amount about internet systems and had advanced computer hardware and software.
Petitta has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, unlawfully using a two-way communication device, and promotion of sexual performance of a minor.
Pedophiles and sex traffickers frequently make connections for underage sex in anonymous personal ads posted to websites such as Craigslist and Backpage.
In April, four men were arrested in Los Angeles County for soliciting sex with young girls using the two websites, reports the Los Angeles Times. Detectives posing as 14- to 16-year-old minors eventually busted 44-year-old Thomas Wilkerson, 26-year-old Mohammed Rahman, 35-year-old Peter Ghanem and 47-year-old Salvador Buenrostro after each of them reportedly went to an arranged location to meet with somebody they believed to be a minor. Each could face up to four years in state prison if found guilty.
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"They acknowledged that the female was underage, either 14 or 16, and they acknowledged, 'I'll pay you $120 for whatever-fill-in-the-blank sex act,'" said Sheriff's Lt. Barry Hall, according to The Times.
Those interactions primarily took place over the phone, either through text message or a call, Hall said.
Around the globe, there are 20.9 million victims of trafficking, 1.5 million of whom are in the U.S., according to Ark of Hope for Children. Human trafficking is on the rise in all 50 states, and as many as 300,000 minors in the U.S. are brought into the commercial sex trade each year.