Air Force captain snagged in Florida undercover sex sting

Air Force Captain Dirk Watson was arrested on four felony counts after allegedly driving to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old for sex.
Air Force Captain Dirk Watson was arrested on four felony counts after allegedly driving to meet what he thought was a 14-year-old for sex.

An Air Force captain driving to meet a 14-year-old a day before he was supposed to meet his wife and kids at Disney World. A 20-year-old already in a work release program after getting caught in the same kind of police operation last year. A 26-year-old who said he is seeking political asylum.

These were among the snagged in a Polk County Sheriff Office sting sweep for sex trafficking-prostitution. The sting, March 14-20, was dubbed “Operation March Sadness” by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, a law enforcement officer who believes in public shaming as a deterrent.

The sweep netted 51 men who now stand accused of solicitation and 14 others arrested on related charges, such as pimping. The overall operation saw 104 people arrested, 38 for prostitution.

“Our priority was looking for the victims of human trafficking,” Judd said last week. “None of our prostitutes would admit to being victims of human trafficking even though several of them certainly had the profile. While we’re confident they’re victims, they are not yet agreeing to receive services or even admitting they’re victims of human trafficking. We will continue to work with them.”

Among those arrested:

▪ John Thompson, 20, who was snagged last summer in the Polk sheriff’s Operation Grand Slam. According to an arrest report, Thompson pleaded not to be arrested because he is on work release from last year’s indiscretion.

▪  Deputies said 26-year-old Akmal Urunboev agreed to pay an undercover officer $200 for full service. He claimed to be in the United States seeking political asylum.

▪  Suspect Kevin Robinson, 42, is a U.S. Navy reserve lieutenant commander stationed in Virginia. Robinson’s arrest affidavit says he showed up for a $600 threesome with two bikinis for the two women, mouthwash and disinfecting wipes, but no condoms since he negotiated that, according to the report.

▪  John Hamilton, 51, told arresting deputies he was a retired Air Force major. But the one suspect who allegedly traveled to meet a minor for sex, 32-year-old Dirk Watson, has a listed occupation of Air Force captain.

According to the arrest report, Watson thought he was having a computer chat with 14-year-old Kaylee. After informing Kaylee he was “kind of horny tbh [to be honest] just a warning,” Watson asked Kaylee what she was wearing and if she was home alone. When the conversation moved to a mobile messaging app, Watson said, “Super cute profile pic!” and “Too cute to be alone.”

According to the sheriff’s office, Kaylee told Watson she was 14 and a virgin. Watson said “I would love to see how well you can kiss” and “I would love to go all the way, but I know that’s probably out of the question.”

After Kaylee and Watson negotiate how far he could go (all the way) and protection (condom to be worn), Watson asks for her address and heads over. He asked her to wear a skirt and begin fondling herself.

“Kaylee” was Polk County Sheriff’s Office detective Christine Smith and he was arrested as he reached the front door of what “Kaylee’s house. The arrest report said Watson told deputies he was “sick,” he’d been working on it, but stress brought his “sickness” to the fore. He lamented he should have “chickened out” that night instead of making a mistake that would cost him his marriage and likely his Air Force job.

Watson is charged with traveling to meet after using a computer to lure a child into an illicit act, using a computer to seduce or solicit a child, using a two-way communications device to commit a felony, and attempted lewd molestation on a minor aged from 12 to 17. He posted $60,000 bail.

David J. Neal: 305-376-3559, @DavidJNeal