Panama City Beach man arrested in undercover op
PANAMA CITY BEACH, Fla. (WJHG/WECP) - A Beach man is in custody after deputies say he was involved in an undercover operation involving child exploitation.
According to the Bay County Sheriff’s Office, investigators with their Criminal Investigations Division Crimes Against Children Unit started the operation in March.
Soon after it began, 56-year-old Gerardo Carreto Cardenas reportedly messaged investigators believing he was talking to a 15-year-old online.
Deputies say Cardenas then asked for nude photographs of the 15-year-old and sent a photo of himself along with a large sum of money.
In April, Cardenas spoke with investigators again, reportedly under the guise he was speaking with the 15-year-old.
In the messages, officials say Cardenas asked to meet the child to go out to eat, then asked if the child was sexually active, also adding he wanted to be sure he wasn’t speaking to law enforcement.
In May, Cardenas reached out for a third time, and investigators say he asked to “hang out” with the child, allegedly claiming he would have sex with the child if they wanted to. Cardenas also reportedly offered to pay $150 an hour.
BCSO say Cardenas was given a location to meet and established surveillance.
Cardenas reportedly arrived and was shortly taken into custody. When being interviewed, Cardenas told deputies he only wanted to help the child and contact their parents.
Cardenas was charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex and taken to Bay County Jail.
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