SPOTSYLVANIA, VA (WWBT) - Four men are behind bars after a child sex sting out of Spotsylvania County. Investigators said they traveled across the area hoping to meet a 13-year-old girl for sex, but it turned out to be an undercover deputy. The sheriff's office said a sting like this highlights how frequent predators are using the internet to go after children.
Investigators said it started with messages exchanged in a chatroom. "The suspects will move farther and farther into the child's comfort zone until they are able to start speaking frankly to each other about they're desires and what they want to do," said Captain Jeff Pearce with the Spotsylvania Sheriff's office.
Investigators say 22-year-old Matthew Arrington traveled from Fredericksburg and 28-year-old Derrian Lewis, who came from Quantico, were arrested in December. 44-year-old Roy Brown Jr. from Richmond and 50-year-old Francis "Frank" Vashro from Stafford were arrested in February. Vashro was arrested just before Valentine's Day. "They're expecting to meet a small child whom they're going to have sexual relations with, instead they meet one of our deputies and several of his friends who places them in jail," said Captian Pearce.
Captain Pearce said it's one more reason why parents need to know what their children are doing online. "Don't be afraid to say, 'It's not invading your privacy. What it is, we're making sure we're doing our job as parents and ensuring your safety,'" he said. "Because the kids in many cases are too young to understand what's happening to hem until it's too late."
The sting was possible through a federal gr ant. Sheriff Roger Harris says fighting this type of crime is a priority, "Online predators are a serious concern in our society today and these operations are essential in the fight against the sexual exploitations of children," he said. "The Spotsylvania Sheriff's Office is dedicated to protecting all children."
All four suspects are now being held at Rappahannock Regional Jail.
The sting lasted from October 2015 to March 2016.
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