A registered sex offender and a St. Petersburg firefighter are among 43 suspects arrested in a sting by the Manatee County Sheriff's Office targeting adults trolling the Internet for sex with minors.
The Manatee County Sheriff's Office identiified the 43 suspects arrested in the past week, and their addresses include Manatee, Pinellas, Sarasota, Lake, Hillsborough, Charlotte and Collier counties. A total of nine men from Sarasota County were arrested in the sting.
Authorities say the men were going online to solicit sex with children and set up similar to Dateline's To Catch A Predator.
Detectives posing as parents and as children went online to several computer chat rooms that are set up for people to anonymously talk about sex and to set up meetings.
The forum in one of the chat rooms centered on incest. On that site detectives posed as parents offering their children up for sexual encounters.
Detectives in various undercover capacities subsequently set up meetings with the defendants at an undercover residence in Manatee County. The men went to the residence believing they were meeting up with a juvenile for a sexual encounter, authorities said.
The defendants were arrested on charges including Travel to Seduce, Solicit or Entice a Child to Commit Sexual Act and Use of a Computer to Seduce, Solicit or Entice a Child to Commit Sexual Act.
Some of the defendants were also charged with Transmission of Materials harmful to Minors by Electronic Device or Equipment, Lewd and Lascivious Molestation, Attempted Capital Sexual Battery and Possession of Drugs.
Suspects arrested from Sarasota County include:
- Keith L Snyder, 60
- Schuyler Brown, 20
- William Lowe, 59
- Richard Barnes, 59
- James Fowler, 28
- John Hubscher, 20
- Corey Campbell, 20
- Walter Knoeringer, 44
- Brian Peters, 32
Jeremy Wert, a 35-year-old firefighter from St. Petersburg was also among those arrested.
For the complete list of the 43 suspects arrested, see Underage Sex Sting Arrest List.
The investigation is ongoing with additional arrests and charges forthcoming. FDLE, ICE, the Bradenton Police Department, and the Sarasota, Polk, Lee and Lake County Sheriff’s Offices are assisting in the investigation.