Undercover detectives in Florida made thirteen arrests during an operation to catch sexual predators last week but one of those arrests has put the military justice system in the spotlight again.
Polk County detectives posed as girls and boys online—on social media platforms and online dating sites—to investigate those who prey upon and travel to meet children for unlawful sexual activity. The six-day undercover “traveler” operation took place from October 2 through October 7, 2018.
On October 5, 2018, an Air Force Security Forces (military police) veteran engaged in conversation with an undercover detective posing as a 13-year old girl he met on an online chat platform.
As 26-year-old Thien Nguyen initiated the conversation, he told the girl he was 18-years-old.
Over the next two days, they conversed back and forth via text messages and Nguyen asked what sexual experiences the girl had and if she was willing to perform oral sex on him, according to PCSO.
He sent a photograph of his genitals and drove to the undercover location where he was arrested without incident.
“If they are not locked up they are a danger to children,” said Polk County Sheriff Judd when briefing the media about Operation Cyber Guardian. “Here is your poster child.”
During a check of his criminal history, detectives learned Nguyen had a prior arrest from the Military for 2 counts of Lewd/Lascivious Molestation in 2014 where he was subsequently imprisoned for approximately three years in a military prison followed by 2 years federal probation (set to expire January 2019).
Detectives confirmed that his prior employment was in the USAF as a Security Forces Officer. At the time of his arrest, he was employed as a manager at the “Rockin’ Crawfish” restaurant in Orlando.
Sheriff Judd expressed his anger at the military justice system for letting Nguyen out of prison early. “This is what makes me crazy angry,” he said.
“He was caught. He had four victims before. He got caught. He apparently plead to two counts of lewd conduct. He got five years. They let him out in three.”
“Did you hear me?” he asked the media with an expression that clearly showed his distress. “He was a military police officer in the Air Force. They let him out early and he’s trying to abuse children again,” he said.
“We will try to do a better job than the military did at locking him up,” Sheriff Judd concluded.
Nguyen was booked into the Polk County Jail and charged with Attempted Lewd Lascivious Molestation, Unlawful Use of a 2-way Communication Device, Transmitting Material Harmful Minor, Traveling to Meet a Minor for the Purpose of Sex, Misrep Age Use Computer Solicit Lure Seduction, Violation of Probation Community Control-Adult.
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