PLANT CITY (FOX 13) - A registered sex offender traveled from Plant City to have sex with an 11-year-old girl in Sarasota County after meeting her online, deputies say.
Sarasota County detectives said the victim’s parent notified them of their child’s communications with 30-year-old Stephen Michael Roa. They said the child exchanged “sexually explicit photos” with Roa, who indicated he was 19 years old.
Roa drove from Plant City to meet the victim who was on her way to school, according to the Sarasota County Sheriff’s Office. When they met, the victim told Roa her age and “performed a sexual act on him,” detectives said.
The investigation showed they met through a live-streaming video app called “Bigo Live,” before moving their conversation to another app, “Snapchat.”
Roa became registered as a sex offender after he was arrested in 2011 for lewd and lascivious behavior with a victim under the age of 16. On Thursday, he was arrested and faces several charges including molestation and traveling to meet a minor for sex.
"Now is the time to dig deep and really be relentless,” said Sarasota County Sheriff Tom Knight in a statement. “Our children are our future; they are our priority and they should be protected from predators like this man. Now more than ever parents need to look at their child’s phone, learn passwords, demand answers and always contact law enforcement if something doesn’t seem right.”
In May, the sheriff launched a campaign to warn parents to keep an eye out for nine apps -- including Snapchat -- that could be in your child’s phone, and can also be used by sexual predators.
- Bumble: It's similar to the popular dating app, Tinder, however, it requires women to make the first contact. Kids have been known to use Bumble to create fake accounts and falsify their age.
- Snapchat: It's one of the most popular apps of 2018. While the app promises users can send a photo or video and it will disappear, recent features allow users to view content for up to 24 hours. Snapchat also allows users to see your location.
- Kik: This app allows anyone to contact and direct message your child, sometimes anonymously. Kids sometimes use Kik to bypass traditional text messaging features. Kik gives users unlimited access to anyone, anywhere, anytime.
- LiveMe: This live-streaming video app uses geolocation to share videos so users can find out a broadcaster's exact location. Users can earn coins within the app and use them as a way to pay minors for photos.
- Holla: The app's makers admit it's an "addicting" video chat app. It allows users to meet people all over the world in just seconds. Reviewers say they have been confronted with racial slurs, explicit content, and more.
- Whisper: This is an anonymous social network that promotes sharing secrets with strangers. It also reveals a user's location so people can meet up.
- Ask.fm: This app has become known for cyberbullying. The app encourages users to allow people to anonymously ask them questions.
- Calculator%: This is one of several secret apps used to hide photos, videos, files, and browser history.
- Hot or Not: This app encourages users to rate other users' profiles, with the focus on physical appearance. It also allows users to check out people in their area and chat with strangers. The sheriff says the goal of this app is to "hook up."