Sex-sting suspect tried to fake death, officials say


Published: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 12:32 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, June 4, 2013 at 12:32 p.m.

A man arrested in Gainesville last year in a sting operation involving soliciting children for sex was arrested in Wyoming for failure to appear in court and is under investigation on allegations he tried to fake his own death by leaving his boat in the Gulf of Mexico.

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This image provided by the Park County Sheriff's Office shows David Leon Lashley, who was arrested May 20, 2013, in Wyoming near the Montana border by U.S. Marshals and U.S. Coast Guard investigators. (AP Photo/Park County Sheriff's Office)

David Leon Lashley, 50, is being returned to Florida by the U.S. Coast Guard in connection with the disappearance of a houseboat in which he reportedly attempted to fake his death, according to the Associated Press.

A spokesman for the Coast Guard said Tuesday that Lashley has not been charged by the agency but is under investigation.

Lashley was arrested last month near the Montana border, where authorities say he was living under the name Wesley Byrd.

The Alachua County Sheriff’s Office arrested Lashley last year in Operation Tail Feather — an operation in which deputies on computers pretended to be youngsters or adults to set up sexual encounters with children.

At the time of his arrest, Lashley told The Sun he believed he was entrapped.

Lashley failed to show for a March court date and was arrested in Wyoming on that warrant.

Mike De Nyse, a public information officer with the Coast Guard in Florida, said he could not release details about the incident involving the boat because the case is under investigation.

“We are currently cooperating with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies in the investigation. By policy, I cannot discuss specific details of ongoing law enforcement investigations,” De Nyse said in an email to The Sun. “With regards to the (Coast Guard) involvement, Lashley has not been charged with making a hoax call to the Coast Guard.”

C. Lance Mathess, public information officer for the Park County Sheriff’s Office in Wyoming, said authorities there learned that Lashley was wanted when the agency was contacted by the Coast Guard and the U.S. Marshal’s Service.

Mathess said officials from the federal agencies came Monday to return Lashley to Florida.

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