KEY POINTS

  • Suspects came to a secret location in Polk County to meet "the children"
  • Sheriff's office said one suspect claimed to work at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge
  • Another couple worked as custodians at Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios

Seventeen people, including two Disney World employees, have been charged following an undercover child sex sting in Florida.

Law enforcement officials said Wednesday that undercover officers posed as 13 and 14-year-old children on social media and online dating apps between July 27 and Aug. 1 as part of "Operation Child Protector," reported New York Post.

The officers interacted with each of the suspects, who believed they were speaking with children, before agreeing to meet up at a secret location in Polk County at separate times.

"You've got to know who your children are talking to, who they're communicating with," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said at the news conference held to detail the sting operation. 

"What you see on this board … are deviants. Incredible deviants," Judd added, pointing to the photos of the accused. "They travel from as far away as Clewiston, Florida. One even came from Los Angeles. Much to their chagrin, instead of meeting with young children, they were met by law enforcement officers who were online undercover posing as children." 

Those arrested are 26 to 47 years old and almost all went to locations to meet up with children. The arrests led to 49 felony and two misdemeanor charges. 

According to Judd, of the 17 people arrested, one claimed he was a lifeguard at Disney Animal Kingdom Lodge. Kenneth Javier Aquino, 26, told police that he was a Navy veteran and had a pregnant girlfriend. Police said Aquino interacted with an undercover officer, who he thought was a 13-year-old girl, and sent her an explicit video of himself. 

Another couple worked as custodians at Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios. Jonathan McGrew, 34, and Savannah Lawrence, 29, were also contacted by an officer posing as a 13-year-old girl. Authorities said McGrew sent "the girl" explicit videos of him and Lawrence performing sexual acts on each other.

However, Lawrence is said to have told officials that McGrew was the initiator and did not reveal to her the girl's age until they got into an Uber. Lawrence has been released on bond. 

Meanwhile, Walt Disney World told NBC News that McGrew and Lawrence have been placed on unpaid leave pending the outcome of the case. However, the company said Aquino does not work for Walt Disney World. It did not provide more details. 

arrested Representational image. Photo: Pixabay