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Saturday, April 20, 2024

Son of Ocala City Council president among 22 men arrested in child sex sting operation

A recent child sex sting operation led by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office resulted in the arrest of 22 men, including the son of Ocala City Council president Ire Jermaine Bethea, Sr.

The operation, dubbed “April Fools,” was conducted by MCSO with assistance provided by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies.

According to MCSO, undercover law enforcement officers exchanged messages with 19 men who ultimately traveled to locations in Marion County to meet with children between the ages of 12 and 16 for sexual activity.

During the online exchanges, these men engaged in conversations that were sexually explicit and described the various sexual acts that they hoped to perform with the children. Upon arrival at the designated meeting place, they were met by law enforcement officers who placed them under arrest.

One of the notable arrests was 38-year-old Ire Jermaine Bethea, Jr., the son of Ocala City Council president Ire Jermaine Bethea, Sr.

Son of Ocala City Council president among 22 men arrested in child sex sting operation
Ire Jermaine Bethea, Jr., son of the Ocala City Council’s president, was arrested during the sting operation

According to the MCSO report, Bethea, Jr. began online communications with a Florida Department of Law Enforcement Agent who was posing as a 14-year-old girl.

During that communication, Bethea, Jr. agreed to meet the minor at a gas station by the Paddock Mall. When he arrived at the location, his vehicle was identified by law enforcement officers and he was arrested.

Bethea, Jr. refused to discuss the incident with the officers. While he was inside an interview room, he was overheard by an MCSO corporal talking to himself. The corporal indicated in an MCSO report that Bethea, Jr. mentioned that he made a mistake and his life was over.

According to MCSO, there were eight additional arrest warrants issued for men who did not travel to Marion County. These men sent sexually explicit pictures to individuals that they believed were minors. Three of these men were arrested while five are actively being sought by law enforcement officers.

“A child’s innocence is something we should all strive to protect. I will continue to use all of my resources to hunt down these predators so they may never hurt a child,” said Marion County Sheriff Billy Woods.

Below is a list of the men who were arrested on-site during the operation:

  • Ire Jermaine Bethea Jr. (DOB: 02/01/1984), from Ocala.
  • Andre Allen Scott (DOB: 03/17/1986), from Ocala.
  • Clayton Daniel Wilson (DOB: 05/04/2000), from Belleview.
  • Millard Michael Hall (DOB: 12/21/1956), from Ocala.
  • Michael Jerrod Bright (DOB: 01/14/1986), from Silver Springs.
  • Benjamin Cory Staton (DOB: 05/20/1992), from Ocala.
  • Nathan Andrew Lewis (DOB: 08/10/1993), from Ocala.
  • Charles Milon Johns Jr. (DOB: 03/09/1975), residence not specified by law enforcement.
  • James Raymond Cress (DOB: 12/28/1975), from Lexington, Kentucky.
  • Wesley Shawn Hicks (DOB: 01/29/1978), from Ocala.
  • Jorge Antonio Mojocoa (DOB: 04/14/1953), from Fort McCoy.
  • Evan Michael Welshans (DOB: 04/05/1991), from Floral City.
  • Christopher Michael Matthews (DOB: 07/15/1988), from Ocala.
  • Daniel Hansex (DOB: 07/13/1990), from The Villages.
  • Victor Cruz Jr. (DOB: 01/29/1999), residence not specified by law enforcement.
  • Jerry Tylan Sanstrom (DOB: 03/17/1986), residence not specified by law enforcement.
  • Alexander Michael Slowes (DOB: 10/11/1997), from Palm Harbor.
  • Richard Lee Benitez (DOB: 06/10/1960), from Silver Springs.
  • Andrew Christian Rittmayer (DOB: 02/21/1992), from Ocala.

Below is a list of the men who were arrested on warrants:

  • Rick Anthony Willet (DOB: 06/17/2000), from Titusville.
  • Jason Allen Santotolucito (DOB: 03/30/1983), from Beverly Hills.
  • Damien Michael Shade (DOB: 02/01/2001), from Homosassa.

The following agencies assisted MCSO in the operation: ICAC North Florida Task Force, U.S. Marshals Service, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, U.S. Secret Service, Homeland Security Investigations, Belleview Police Department, Dunnellon Police Department, Ocala Police Department, and Gainesville Police Department.