A 30-year-old U.S. Navy Lieutenant Junior Grade from Florida was arrested for soliciting sex online with a 12-year-old deaf girl.
Michael McNeil, a Surface Warfare Officer who works on the USS Lassen, made plans to meet a female minor at a Starbucks in Clay County, CBS 47 Action News reported. McNeil was arrested in Orange Park after he drove there from Jacksonville.
McNeil’s online communications transpired with an undercover detective that was posing as the child’s guardian, according to the Clay County Sheriff’s Office.
A social media post from the sheriff’s office said: “During four days of conversation, Mr. McNeil made his intentions with the young girl very clear.”
The U.S. Navy said it’s investigating the incident and working with law enforcement. A spokesperson for Naval Station Mayport, where McNeil is stationed, said disciplinary action has not yet been taken. It’s unclear what discipline he could face.
McNeil posted a $75,000 bond on Friday afternoon.
According to McNeil’s neighbors, he is married and has a young son.
McNeil’s arrest was part of a sting by the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office called Operation D.U.V.A.L., which stands for Disrupting Underage Virtual Abuse Locally. The operation was carried out by 13 law enforcement agencies.
The sting targeted adults who were seeking out children for sexual activity in Jacksonville, according to the sheriff.
Navy Lieutenant traveled to Clay County for sex with deaf child, deputies say https://t.co/X7XeAdazw0
— ActionNewsJax (@ActionNewsJax) August 31, 2018
Other than McNeil, 17 other people were arrested during the sting, including Edward Stanley who works as a victim advocate in North Carolina, The Florida Times-Union reported. Stanley was in Jacksonville for a victim advocate conference while he was trying to meet with a 14-year-old girl for sexual activity.
Jacksonville Sheriff Mike Williams said: “We had suspects travel from as far north as Spring Lake, N.C., and as far south as Orlando to meet with persons they believed were 13- and 14-year-old boys or girls for sexual encounters. Needless to say, individuals who are trolling the internet are not always who they pretend to be, and our children can never be certain of the identity or intentions of strangers who attempt to communicate with them online.”
The Sheriff’s Office said many of the men arrested are from Jacksonville, with one each in Jacksonville Beach, Middleburg and Orange Park. Others came from St. Lucie and Alachua counties.
Authorities are still looking for two additional men, Anthony Andrew Siciliano, and Justin Lee Mathis.