The son of Ocala City Council president Ire Jermaine Bethea, Sr. is facing four felony charges after he traveled to meet a 14-year-old girl for oral sex.
A recent child sex sting operation, dubbed “April Fools,” was led by the Marion County Sheriff’s Office with assistance provided by local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies. The operation led to the arrest of 22 men, including 38-year-old Ire Jermaine Bethea, Jr.
The MCSO report provided additional details on Bethea, Jr.’s arrest.
On Wednesday, March 30, a Florida Department of Law Enforcement agent was utilizing an undercover profile on a webpage to target people who were seeking sexual contact with minors. The profile, operated by the agent, showed a 19-year-old woman who was advertising various sexual acts.
The FDLE agent received a text message from a phone number which belonged to Bethea, Jr. According to the MCSO report, the following conversation took place via text message between Bethea, Jr. and the agent:
Bethea, Jr.: You available.
FDLE agent: You see me on.
Bethea, Jr.: Yeah.
FDLE agent: ok.
Bethea, Jr.: Qv (for quick visit).
FDLE agent: so u know I am really 14 that ok or no.
Bethea, Jr.: Ummm u take cashapp.
FDLE agent: sry cash only.
Bethea, Jr.: That’s OK wya (where you at).
FDLE agent: ocala u.
Bethea, Jr.: ocala ok that’s fine where I meet u at.
FDLE agent: what u want.
Bethea, Jr.: QV head (slang for oral sex).
FDLE agent: what all u wanna do in the qv.
Bethea, Jr.: Head.
FDLE agent: ok.
Bethea, Jr.: Wya (where you at).
FDLE agent: u know where the mall is.
Bethea, Jr.: Yeah.
FDLE agent: when.
Bethea, Jr.: 10-15 mins gotta take out some cash your at the mall.
FDLE agent: live near the mall.
Bethea, Jr.: yeah.
FDLE agent: ok how much cash u bring.
Bethea, Jr.: 60.
FDLE agent: k. what u drivin. u close before I walk up there.
Bethea, Jr.: Yeah bout to leave the store it’s a white car.
The MCSO report indicated that Bethea, Jr. agreed to meet the 14-year-old girl near Paddock Mall at the Qwik King located at 3128 SW 27th Avenue. The text message communication also instructed him to purchase a specific beverage from the convenience store.
Once Bethea, Jr. sent a text message stating that he had arrived at the determined meeting location in his white vehicle, law enforcement officers conducted surveillance of the location and spotted his vehicle in the parking lot.
Bethea, Jr. was taken into custody. When the FDLE agent sent another text message stating “test” to the phone number that the agent had been communicating with, a notification of the message flashed on Bethea, Jr.’s cellphone.
He also had $78 in cash, and the specific beverage that the agent had requested was located inside his vehicle.
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 the MCSO report that Bethea, Jr. mentioned that he made a mistake and his life was over.
Bethea, Jr. was arrested and transported to Marion County Jail where he is currently being held on $40,000 bond. He is facing felony charges for obscene communication (using a computer to seduce, solicit, or lure a child), obscene communication (traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child), using a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony, and kidnapping.
A court date has been scheduled on Tuesday, May 3 at 9 a.m., according to jail records.