Sebring, FL - The United States Marshals Service and the Highlands County Sheriff's Office, in conjunction with the Highlands Probation Office and the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, concluded Operation Disconnect, which led to 37 arrests across Highlands County, Florida.
From August 2-21, the operation targeted noncompliant sex offenders, sex offenders with active warrants, and high-risk sex offenders. Operational personnel worked together to investigate and locate sex offenders, conduct research, develop investigative leads, and update the Florida sex offender registry.
The State of Florida has approximately 29,000 sex offenders on the state sex offender registry, and 200 of them reside in Highlands County. Operation Disconnect supported a county-wide approach to sex offender enforcement within the state.
Targeted sex offenders were found to have unregistered internet accounts, which is a violation of the terms of their probation. During this operation, electronic devices such as phones, computers and gaming devices were examined for unregistered accounts. The devices were also taken to be examined, which could lead to additional charges being added to those individuals who were arrested. The operation resulted in a total of 37 arrests.
Other suspects arrested during the operation included a man who was arrested on three counts of sexual battery on a victim under 12 years of age; William Eugene Martin, 29, of Sebring, arrested on five counts of possession of child pornography; Alton Williams, 54, of Avon Park, arrested on a warrant from Texas as an absconded sex offender; and William Goodhue, 52, of Sebring, on a warrant for felony battery.
"We want to thank our partners with the U.S. Marshals Service and Probation and Parole for their assistance with this operation," said Highlands County Sheriff Paul Blackman. "We hope this sends a message to the sex offenders in our county that unless they want to go back to jail, they should make sure they follow the rules. This just goes to show them that we take our responsibility to monitor their activities very seriously."
The U.S. Marshals Service is the federal government's primary law enforcement agency for sex offender and fugitive investigations. Operation Disconnect represented the U.S. Marshals Service's aggressive enforcement strategy to help ensure the safety of communities and children across the country. All defendants are presumed innocent until proven guilty.