Eight arrested in undercover predator operation in Walton County

WALTON COUNTY, Fla., March 5, 2018—A five-day operation in Walton County lead to the arrest of eight men for soliciting a child for sex.

One of the eight was a  registered sex offender from Escambia County.

By monitoring smartphone apps and online advertisements, an Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force went hunting for sexual offenders in the area.

“We are going to rid our community of these animals one by one,” said Sheriff Michael Adkinson.

Operation Paladin’s Shield was conducted at an undisclosed location in Walton County for a five-day period ending March 5.

Arrested were:

  • Richard Augustus Pate, 67, from Santa Rosa Beach
  • Keith Christopher Meade, 30, from Philadelphia
  • Chad Dreyton Dugas, 18, from Fort Walton Beach
  • Jame Nicholas Gibson, 27, from Pensacola
  • Timothy Keith Lewis, 20, from Milton
  • Trenton Patrick Hooks, 32, from Milton
  • Thomas Wayne Bannin, 36, from Fort Walton Beach
  • Charles Martin Spence, 33, from Valapraiso

All eight men responded to online advertisements on various social media such as  Grindr, Whisper and Craigslist.

Grindr is a geosocial networking mobile app geared towards gay and bisexual men designed to help them meet other men in their area. Whisper is a form of anonymous social media, allowing users to post and share photo and video messages anonymously.

“These people are the worst of the worst,” said Adkinson. “We cannot encourage parents enough to be aware of the applications and websites their kids are using.”

Walton County Sheriff’s Office hosted the operation with help of area agencies including Panama City Beach Police, Escambia County Sheriff’s Office, Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, Pensacola Police Department, Gulf Breeze Police Department and other Florida agencies including Gainesville Police Department, Tallahassee Police Department, Wakulla County Sheriff’s Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement.

“The success of this operation is a direct result of the passion, hard work and dedication of the men and women who work Internet crimes against children,” Adkinson said.

PateRichard Augustus Pate, 67, Santa Rosa Beach – Pate responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. During the conversation between Pate and an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old boy, Pate solicited to engage in sexual activities with the child. Feb. 28, Pate traveled from Santa Rosa to engage in sexual activity with a person he believed to be a 14-year-old boy. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.   

MeadeKeith Christopher Meade, 30, Philadelphia – Meade responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. He engaged in conversation through the app and through text message with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old boy. March 2, Meade traveled from his hotel room in Destin to pick up who he thought was a 14-year-old child to engage in sexual activity. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.

DugasChad Dreyton Dugas, 18, Fort Walton Beach – Dugas responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. Dugas engaged in conversation through the app and then continued on Snapchat and through text messages with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old boy. He traveled to a location to pick up who he believed to be the boy to engage in sexual activity. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.

GibsonJame Nicholas Gibson, 27, Pensacola – Gibson responded to an online advertisement posted to subjects seeking to solicit sexual activities with underage children. He replied to the ad and began a conversation with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old girl. During the conversation, Gibson asked for a photo of her breasts. He traveled to a location in Walton County to meet with who he believed was the girl. Investigators then confirmed Gibson was a registered sex offender.

car-in-the-bay-2.jpg

Jame Nicholas Gibson, 27, from Pensacola, crashes his car in the bay in Walton County and flees on foot from law enforcement. (Walton County Sheriff’s Office)

Before he could be apprehended at the meet spot, Gibson fled from law enforcement. He drove in excess of 100 miles an hour on County Highway 30A to avoid capture before crashing into the bay at the end of County Highway 395 and fleeing on foot. Gibson was apprehended the following morning by WCSO in the area of the crash. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony, fleeing and eluding.

LewisTimothy Keith Lewis, 20, Milton – Lewis responded to an online advertisement posted on Whisper. He engaged in conversation with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old girl. Lewis traveled from his home in Milton to a specified location to engage in sexual activity with a person he believed to be 14 years of age.  Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.

HooksTrenton Patrick Hooks, 32, Milton – Hooks responded to an online advertisement on Craigslist. He engaged in conversation with an undercover investigator through email then switched to text messages. The undercover officer was posing as a mother wanting someone to have sex with her 13-year-old daughter. Once he learned the age of the daughter, Hooks sent a photo of his genitals to the undercover officer. March 4, Hooks traveled from his home in Milton and bought lubrication while en route to a specified location to engage in sexual activity with a child he believed to be 13 years old. Charges: Using a computer to solicit a parent or guardian to engage in sexual activity with a minor, transmitting harmful material to a minor, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.

BanninThomas Wayne Bannin, 36, Fort Walton Beach – Bannin responded to an online advertisement posted on Craigslist. The conversation between Bannin and the undercover officer switched from email to text message. Bannin solicited to engage in sexual activities with who he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. During the conversations, Bannin asked the undercover officer if she wanted a picture of his genitals and then sent the photo. March 4, Bannin traveled from his home in Fort Walton Beach to engage in sexual activity with a child. Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, transmitting harmful material to a minor, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.

SpenceCharles Martin Spence, 33, Valparaiso – Spence responded to an online advertisement posted on Craigslist. The conversation between Spence and an undercover officer switched from email to text message. During the conversation with the undercover officer, Spence solicited to engage in sexual activity with a child he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. March 4, Spence traveled from his home in Okaloosa County to a location disclosed to him by the undercover officer and was taken into custody.  Charges: Using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communications device in the commission of a felony.

Walton County Sheriff’s Office release

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