More than 100 people, including the Orlando leader of the Council of American-Islamic Relations, were arrested in a two-county Florida sex-sting operation, many of whom for allegedly trying to have sex with children.
The investigation concluded last week, authorities announced Tuesday.
Many of those arrested had jobs working with children, including theme-park workers at Universal Orlando and SeaWorld, and a former Walt Disney World cast member who left the job before his arrest. SeaWorld said the men charged were no longer employed at the theme park.
“These are very dangerous people and they are after our children,” said Grady Judd of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
During the first week of the sting, investigators say, 22 people traveled to Clermont, Florida, thinking they were going to have sex with a child between ages 10 and 14. Seventy-nine others were arrested on charges connected to prostitution.
Ahmad Saleem, a Muslim youth coordinator, was also one of the men arrested. Investigators said the men all went to a home in Clermont with the hopes of having sex with a child. The car Saleem traveled in had a license plate that said, “Invest in children,” according to investigators.
Saleem is also founder of the Saleem Academy, an organization “empowering Muslim youth globally” and also served as the Orlando coordinator for CAIR.
A note posted at the Saleem Academy website Tuesday stated, “Closed. May God bless you, guide you, and illuminate the right path for you, and keep you firm on it. Keep me in your prayers.”
“He’s well known as a community outreach leader interacting with teens in and around the Orlando area,” said Judd.
Judd said the operation was designed to send a strong message to anyone in Internet chat rooms that sex with minors won’t be tolerated.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Office released the following in a statement:
“The first week of the operation targeted adults who were looking for sex with a child. During this phase, the detectives posed as either a child or a parent of a child as they were solicited by those interested in sexual activity with the child. As this phase progressed, 22 individuals were arrested after traveling to the location to have sex with who they believed to be a child, two of whom were already registered sex offenders. The age range for the target child was 10-14 years old in these cases.
“During the second week of the operation, detectives targeted those involved in crimes related to prostitution. As this portion of the operation progressed, 79 individuals were arrested on charges related to prostitution. Some of those arrested in this phase were also in possession of drugs and were therefore charged accordingly.”