Sheriff’s ‘spider web’ nets 31, including Valencia student

ADDENDUM: In March 2013, Mr. Lawro was found guilty of unlawful use of a two-way communication device. The state declined to prosecute all other charges.

ORLANDO, Fla. — Valencia College student and Valencia Voice staff writer Nicholas S. Lawro, 22, was arrested over the weekend of Oct. 27 as part of an online underage-sex sting conducted by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office.

He faces three felony counts including one of solicitation of a minor via computer and two of traveling to meet a minor following obscene communication. As of Monday evening Nov. 5, he remains in custody at the Orange County Corrections Facility with a bond of $2800.

The Orange County sting represents one component of a statewide concerted effort. As part of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, the operations aim to lure in predators online, according to materials provided by the OCSO. This year’s incarnation, designated “Operation Spider Web II” netted 31 arrests in Orange County, while last year’s roped in 50.

“There is good and bad news in these numbers. The bad news is sadly there remains individuals who prey on children in this manner. The good news is the numbers are down,” said Jerry Demings, Orange County Sheriff.

“Our ultimate goal is to have zero arrests. So, there is still much work to be done and awareness of the dangers that can further reduce the numbers.”

In addition to the felony charges related to the sting, Lawro currently remains in prison pending possible violation of probation for possession of Alprazolam, commonly know as the anxiety-relieving drug Xanax.

Lawro, a former Florida State University student, has at least two prior arrests. Both of the previous incidents involved possession of controlled substances, one occurring in Marion County in January 2010 and another accompanied by a DUI charge in Hillsborough County in October 2011.

According to Lawro’s arrest affidavit, “The Orange County Sheriff’s Office was conducting undercover online child exploitation investigations, targeting suspect(s) who contact minors or contact and entice the parents or guardians of minors for purposes of sexual activity.”

The same document provides a detailed chronology of events leading to Lawro’s arrest, including complete documentation of the sexually graphic messages he exchanged with the decoy police officer. Lawro first made contact with the decoy email account associated with an online ad offering “fun” and “seeking mature discreet MEN” on Friday, Oct. 26.

The exchanges continued through Saturday, Oct. 27 via email and subsequently text messages between Lawro and the decoy entity. He believed he was speaking with two 15-year-old girls.

The saga ended when Lawro was successfully lured to a home on Crystal Bay Lane in East Orlando on that same Saturday evening.

“The decoy then asked the suspect to pick up beer, and he offered to pick up some Mike’s Hard Lemonade and Corona,” read the arrest account.

At approximately 11:18 p.m. on Oct. 27, Lawro arrived at the Waterford Lakes area home and was arrested. Video footage was taken, though Lawro’s film was not one of the four chosen for public release, according to the OCSO Public Information Office.

Lawro’s case files remain nonpublic as of late Friday, Nov. 2. The request for trial was filed Monday, Oct. 29. His court-appointed lawyer, Adam Lloyd Pollack, declined to comment.

“There’s really nothing I can say at this time,” said Pollack.

An attempt was made to reach Lawro for comment, though it proved unsuccessful. No timeline has been established for trial or for further hearings.