LEE COUNTY, FLA. -- Nine Lee County men are behind bars, all facing charges stemming from a child pornography ring. It comes from a 10 month investigation by the Innocent Images Task Force. Eight of the men are facing state charges and one is facing a federal indictment. The men arrested age from 20 to 83. One of the men accused is a sex offender and another is an attorney in Fort Myers.
Michael Ballew lives two doors down from here Justin Holesapple, 24, lives at the River Trails Trailer Park in North Fort Myers. Holesapple has been arrested as part of a 10 month investigation into child pornography by local law enforcement.
"It doesn't really surprise me, I hate to say it. Definitely not a nice guy. Not somebody that you'd want to take home to meet your other or any parent. Not a nice person at all," said Ballew.
In addition to the child porn charges, Holesapple is facing obscene communication charges after investigators said he sent a nude photo of himself to a child. The Innocent Images Task Force arrested nine men in total. Lee County Sheriff Mike Scott has a warning for offenders.
"We're watching every key stroke. Before you hit send, before you hit receive, before you think about downloading and sharing this information, be mindful that law enforcement is taking this very, very seriously," said Scott.
One of the men arrested, William Whitcomb, is an attorney. WINK News tried talking to someone at the law firm, but no answer. Dominic Montanez lives next door and isn't surprised to hear of the arrest.
"I think its bad that someone that is supposed to uphold the law is the one that is breaking it. It shouldn't be a double edge sword," said Montanez.
The investigation tracked IP addresses to those arrested. Investigators found hundreds of files of images or videos of children engaging in sexually explicit conduct. Ballew said having one of his neighbors behind bars doesn't come as a shock.
"It surprises me but not that much. It just saddens me the most," said Ballew.
The man that is facing the federal charges is the registered sex offender. The men will have their first court appearance Thursday morning.
Those arrested are:
Ernest John Sandoe, age 83 (d-o-b 3/13/28), of 8281 Shorecrest Drive, Fort Myers
William Thomas, age 65 (d-o-b 1/6/46), of 8861Brittania Drive, Fort Myers
Mark Alan Straulin II, age 20 (d-o-b 3/4/91), of 383 Rosemont Drive, Fort Myers
William Grandon Whitcomb, age 68 (d-o-b 10/19/42), of 2016 Bayside Parkway, Fort Myers
Donald Lee Payton, age 57 (d-o-b 11/27/53), of 16970 Pelican Way, North Fort Myers
Jason R. Russo, age 28 (d-o-b 7/26/83), of 6308 Panther Lane #C2, Fort Myers
Ronald Franklin Gill, age 39 (d-o-b 3/11/72), of 443 Poplar Street, Lehigh Acres
Additionally, a Cape Coral man has been charged in connection with communications he had with a teenaged minor via the internet and cellular phone. The investigation confirmed he sent a nude photograph of himself to the child. He is charged with obscene communication - use of a computer to solicit or lure a child, s. 847.0135(3a) F.S. He is identified as:
Justin William Holesapple, age 24 (d-o-b 1/13/87), of 1085 Myakka Drive, North Fort Myers
The ninth person was taken into custody Monday, October 3, 2011. 63 year old (d-o-b 5/23/48) Rene Gerald Labonte of 2211 N.E. 15th Lane, Cape
Coral is being held on federal charges as a result of the undercover operation. He is a registered sex offender in Lee County.