2 Gainesville men charged in child-sex sting

Published: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 28, 2013 at 7:18 p.m.

Two Gainesville men were arrested in a child-sex sting conducted by Alachua County sheriff’s deputies during the weekend.

As part of the weekend-long “Operation Nightlight,” deputies arrested Richard Ashcraft III, 40, of 1021 NW 23rd Ave., and Lance Kriete, 20, of 13 Fraternity Row, on charges related to using a computer to solicit sex with a child, according to arrest reports.

Sheriff’s spokesman Lt. Todd Kelly said the operation ran from Thursday through Sunday morning, and it was intentionally a smaller operation than past stings.

“We had less lines in the water, so to speak,” he said. “So we caught less fish.”

The Sun reported the first arrest in the operation on Friday, when Benjamin Parker, 23, was taken into custody. At the time, the Sheriff’s Office would not release circumstances of the arrest or give any further information about the case.

Kelly said Monday that Friday’s article may have contributed to fewer arrests through the rest of the weekend because potential predators may have stayed away from Gainesville after learning of the first arrest — a situation he called a double-edged sword.

“Ultimately, that’s good for us that they stay out of Gainesville,” he said. “But also, they are not caught.”

The arrest report states that Ashcraft, a mechanic at Bestway Cab in Gainesville, believed he was emailing and text messaging a 13-year-old girl when he asked if she had ever had sex and if she wanted to.

An undercover law enforcement officer on the receiving end of those messages agreed to meet Ashcraft at a Gainesville gas station, supposedly across the street from the girl’s home. Once Ashcraft arrived, the undercover officer asked him to buy “her” some Skittles while “she” walked over.

When he walked to his car with the bag of Skittles, deputies arrested him.

Ashcraft was being held at the Alachua County jail on Monday on a $75,000 bond. He faces two third-degree felony charges and one second-degree felony charge.

Kriete, a University of Florida criminal justice senior from Boca Raton, responded to an online ad posted Friday night by authorities posing as the father of a 14-year-old girl, according to the arrest report.

In an email, Kriete discussed having a sexual encounter with the girl, according to the arrest report.

Early Saturday morning, Kriete messaged officials again asking to arrange a meeting that morning. Deputies say that night, Kriete traveled to a predetermined location in Gainesville for sex with the girl. He was arrested and taken to the Alachua County jail.

After the arrest Kriete said he was conducting a sting operation of his own, adding that he planned to record the “dad” offering his daughter for sex and call law enforcement from a bathroom.

He was released Monday on $75,000 bond.

Kriete is listed as a risk manager for the UF chapter of Beta Theta Pi fraternity. Fraternity President Trent Talbot released a statement Monday regarding the incident.

“We were shocked, disappointed and saddened to learn yesterday of the alleged personal conduct of Lance Kriete, a member of our Fraternity,” he wrote. “As a result, we have been working closely with the local authorities, the University of Florida administration and our General Fraternity to ensure that Beta Theta Pi contributes in every manner possible to the timely legal investigation.”

Talbot also asked for privacy for the fraternity.

“Out of concern and respect for Lance’s friends and fraternity brothers that have been affected so significantly upon learning of the allegations, we ask for considerate privacy in the coming days as the investigatory process continues,” he wrote.

Kriete faces two third-degree felony charges and one second-degree felony charge.

Kelly said the grant-funded operation was a success after leading to three arrests.

“Any time you can remove somebody who’s preying after our children, and you can remove them from our community, that’s successful,” he said.

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