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Sting nets accused child predator

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By Alice Du Pont

A sting operation aimed at online child predators led to arrest for a man who authorities say thought he was communicating with a 12-year-old girl, but was really sending graphic photos and other sexual content to an undercover law enforcement officer. He was arrested while at a Gadsden County high school where authorities say he sought employment and had spent more than two weeks volunteering.

Joseph Brian Collins, 43, of Jackson County, was apprehended by officers from the Tallahassee Police Department, Thursday, Aug. 8, around 12:45 p.m. at East Gadsden High School. He was arrested on charges of two counts of online solicitation of a minor and four counts of transmission of harmful material to a minor. In addition, he was also charged with one count of unlawful use of a two-way communications device.

Gadsden County School District spokeswoman Shaia Beckwith said Collins was at the school where he had been a volunteer football coach for the past two-and-a-half weeks.

“He was there filling out an application for a position on the coaching staff. He was not officially hired and has never worked in our district,” Beckwith said, adding, “we have an awesome program there, and that’s probably why he wanted to work there.”

Collins, she said, had gone through the Jessica Lunsford screening as required by state law. The screening is designed to identify anyone who has been declared a sexual offender or sexual predator who comes onto a school site. The driver license of an individual is scanned when the person arrives on campus. If the person is an offender or predator, a predetermined member of the school personnel at the school site and several people at the district office are notified immediately. Collins, who has no previous arrest record, passed the screening.

According to the probable cause affidavit, this is what happened:

On Aug. 5, an advertisement was posted by an undercover investigator on an e-commerce site. The advertisement was for individuals who use e-commerce sites for the purpose of sexual contact with minors. Collins replied to the advertisement on the same date it was posted. He was immediately told that he was communicating with a 12-year-old girl.

Collins continued communicating with “the child” and asked if his age bothered her. He then requested a photograph after asking what she looked like as well as inquiring what type of undergarments she preferred.

The following day, Aug. 6, Collins resumed communications. This time he asked if she had received “dirty pictures” from other men and described in detail certain sexual acts he would like to perform with her. On the same day he sent graphic pictures of himself. He asked if he could travel to meet “the child” and again described the acts he would like to perform.

On Aug. 7 Collins allegedly sent more graphic pictures, claiming they were photos of him and his wife. He did not, however, arrive at the location where he had asked “the child” to meet him. 

On Thursday, Aug. 8, Collins was positively identified from his driver’s license by comparing it to the first photo he sent “the child.” It was learned by TPD that Collins was at 27001 Blue Star Highway in Gadsden County, which is the address for East Gadsden High School. According to the affidavit, Collins told Tallahassee police officers he was a teacher and football coach at a Gadsden County high school. It was determined by TPD that Collins was not currently employed at East Gadsden High School.

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