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Man charged with soliciting underage sex online

Authorities say they caught the man in a sting operation. He had been arrested on child pornography charges before, reports show.

By MARY CARMICHAEL

© St. Petersburg Times, published June 20, 2000


NEW PORT RICHEY -- Nine years ago, Charles Caron got caught in a federal sting when U.S. Customs agents found two imported child pornography videotapes in his garage.

He had changed by 1992, said Thomas Waterhouse, his mental-health counselor at the time. Caron had established "a new level of communication and emotional intimacy with his wife," according to a letter Waterhouse wrote to Caron's probation officer. He was "eager and motivated" to cure himself of his psychological quirks, the letter said. So he was released from his mandated three-year probation and counseling stint after only one year.

But federal agents say they caught the 48-year-old New Port Richey man again on Saturday. He was using an Internet chat room to solicit sex from a girl he thought was a minor, said Special Agent Brian Kensel of the FBI.

"He thought he was conversing with a young lady under 18," Kensel said. "That turned out not to be the case."

Because the investigation is ongoing, Kensel would not say how the agents caught Caron. But Kensel said the sting could have worked two ways. Either a citizen tipped off authorities, he said, or Caron accidentally was chatting with an undercover officer.

The sting was the work of a task force that includes agents from the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office, the Tampa Police Department, the Florida Department of Corrections and the FBI.

The task force has been busy this year, Kensel said.

"They've been in operation since January and they've done several dozen stings," he said.

Caron, who lives at 3735 Chaffey Drive in New Port Richey, is being held at the Hillsborough County Jail without bail. If found guilty he faces a maximum sentence of 15 years in prison, according to an FBI report released Monday.

In 1991, Caron was charged with two counts of possession of pornographic materials displaying sexual conduct by a child. A detective from the Pasco County Sheriff's Office and U.S. Customs agents found two pornographic videotapes in Caron's garage. Court documents said Caron originally pleaded not guilty, saying the evidence against him should be dismissed because he was entrapped by agents.

But the documents show he later changed his plea to no contest and was given three years of probation, provided that he got psychiatric counseling.

After one year of counseling, his lawyer, John Lauro of Tampa, filed a brief moving for early termination of probation. The brief said the year of probation "had been entirely successful and there would be no further purpose served by continued probation."

-- Staff writer Mary Carmichael can be reached in west Pasco at 869-6232 or (800) 333-7505, extension. 6232. Her e-mail address is carmichael@sptimes.com.

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