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Pensacola sex offender among 8 arrested in child sex sting

Source: Walton County Sheriff's Office

Eight men were arrested following a five-day operation sting called "Paladin's Shield" in Walton County. The men were arrested for soliciting a child for sex. One of the men is also a registered sex offender out of Escambia County.

According to the Walton County Sheriff's Office, the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force started the operation after monitoring smartphone apps and online ads.

The undercover officers posed as teenage boys, girls, and even mothers on the online advertisements.

The following is a list of those arrested:

  • Richard Augustus Pate, 67, has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and using a communication device in the commission of a felony. Pate responded to an online advertisement on Grindr. Pate was speaking with an officer posing as a 14-year-old male about traveling to engage in sexual activity, authorities said.

  • Jame Nicholas Gibson, 27, was charged for using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony, and fleeing and eluding. The sheriff's office said Gibson responded to an online advertisement posted to people looking to solicit sexual activities with underage children. Gibson reportedly began messaging the officer posing as a 14-year-old girl and asked for a photo of her breasts. Investigators were able to confirm Gibson was a registered sex offender out of Pensacola. The sheriff's office said before Gibson could be apprehended at the "meet spot" he ran and a pursuit was initiated. He drove more than 100 miles per hour on Highway 30A and crashed into the bay at the end of 395. Gibson was apprehended the following morning after he ran from the crash.

  • Keith Christophe Meade, 30, responded to an online advertisement on Grindr and began messaging an officer posing as a 14-year-old boy. Meade reportedly traveled from Destin to pick up who he thought was the child to engage in sexual activity. Meade has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, using a communication device in the commission of a felony.

  • Chad Dugas, 18, has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and using a communication device in the commission of a felony. The sheriff's office said Dugas responded to an online advertisement on Grindr with an officer pretending to be a 14-year-old boy. Deputies said Dugas traveled to a location to pick up who he thought was the teenage boy.

  • Timothy Keith Lewis, 20, has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and using a communication device in the commission of a felony. Lewis reportedly responded to an online advertisement posted on Whisper. The sheriff's office said Lewis began speaking with an officer posing as a 14-year-old girl. Lewis drove from his Milton home to a specified location to reportedly engage in sexual activity with the girl, according to the sheriff's office.

  • Trenton Patrick Hooks, 32, has been charged with using a computer to solicit a parent or guardian to engage in sexual activity with a minor, transmitting harmful material to a minor, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and using a communication device in the commission of a felony. The sheriff's office said Hooks responded to an online advertisement on Craigslist and began messaging an undercover investigator through email and later texts. The officer posed as a mother wanting someone to have sex with her 13-year-old daughter. Once he learned the daughter's age, Hooks reportedly sent a photo of his genitals to the officer. Authorities said Hooks drove from Milton engage in sexual activity with a child he believed to be 13 years old.

  • Thomas Bannin, 36, has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, transmitting harmful material to a minor, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and using a communication device in the commission of a felony. Bannin reportedly responded to an online advertisement posted on Craigslist and started speaking with an officer he believed to be a 14-year-old girl. The sheriff's office said Bannin asked the undercover officer if she wanted a picture of his genitals. Bannin reportedly drove from his Fort Walton Beach home to engage in sexual activity with a 14-year-old.

  • Charles Spence, 33, has been charged with using a computer to seduce a child, traveling to meet a minor for sex, and using a communication device in the commission of a felony. The sheriff's office said Spence spoke with an undercover officer posing as a 14-year-old girl on Craigslist. Spence reportedly traveled from his Okaloosa County home to meet the teen and was taken into custody.
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