Middleburg, FL

Middleburg ‘master groomer’ arrested in child exploitation case, investigators searching for more victims

Zoey Fields

A Middleburg man was arrested Thursday for human trafficking, promoting a sexual performance by a child using a minor in production of computer pornography, seduction of a child using the internet and transmission of child sexual abuse material.

Investigators are now looking for more possible victims.

Randy Coffelt Jr., 44, of Middleburg was arrested by the Florida Department of Law Enforcement (FDLE) in a case that extended outside of Clay County and into Pasco County.

The Pasco Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of Coffelt and three additional men who sexually abused the 15-year-old female, while also recording and sharing videos of the abuse with each other.

The three other men are listed below:

  • Branden Sarno, 33, of Port Richey
  • Sidney Smith, 68, of Holiday
  • John Kehinde, 29, of New Port Richey

The case began in April 2023 when Pasco Sheriff’s Office learned of allegations through a Victim Advocate who was speaking with the female survivor. The 16-year-old began to share her experiences with that advocate which initiated the investigation.

A graphic created by Pasco Sheriff's Office outlining each man's involvement in the child trafficking and exploitation case.Photo byPasco Sheriff's Office

The survivor said she met several men, including Coffelt Jr., on dating websites starting in December 2022. The survivor believed she was in a dating relationship with Coffelt and talked with him frequently, according to an FDLE press release.

The two met through an online site called “Chat Avenue” and used the site’s private messaging feature to communicate before, eventually, sending text messages to one another’s cell phones. The survivor informed Coffelt of her age, to which he said “that’s okay, I like them young,” Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco said.

Coffelt eventually told the survivor that he wanted her to have sex with other men and that he wanted them to record it. Coffelt further explained that he wanted the recorded encounters sent to him as payment for initiating the sex, investigators said. The survivor agreed to do this as she felt it would please Coffelt, the press release said.

“This suspect was a master groomer in the most reprehensible sense of the term,” FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said. “Manipulating and exploiting a vulnerable minor for his own twisted gains.”

The investigation showed that Coffelt found Sarno, Smith and Kehinde through a pornographic website where he had uploaded nude photos of the minor and created a profile advertising her for sex. Coffelt then initiated meeting for the three men to pick the minor up from her home, engage in sexual conduct and record the sexual abuse and send Coffelt the videos afterward, investigators said.

After an extensive investigation, Florida Department of Law Enforcement agents secured a search warrant for Coffelt’s Middleburg residence. With the assistance of the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, the agents executed the warrant on May 20 and seized several electronic devices for forensic examination and took Coffelt into custody.

“We know there are other people [victims/survivors] out there and we are trying to find them,” Sheriff Nocco said during a press conference.

Nocco described graphic details during the press conference where Coffelt is coordinating the sexual videos, telling the minor that she is “not doing it right” and “if you are not going to do it right, I will just find other girls,” he said.

The case remains active as investigators believe there may be additional victims. Anyone with information is asked to call FDLE’s Human trafficking Hotline at 855-352-7233, the Pasco Sheriff’s Crime Tip Line at 1-800-706-2488 or the Clay County Sheriff’s Office at 904-264-6512.

Coffelt was transported to the Clay County Jail and his bond is set at $375,000.

All individuals in this case were charged with several crimes, including human trafficking, use of a child in sexual performance and more, according to the Pasco County Sheriff’s office.

“Arrests in this case were made possible by the tireless work of several agencies, including FDLE and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office,” a Pasco County press release said. “Pasco Sheriff’s Office is thankful for the collaborative efforts of these agencies for their assistance in bringing justice to the survivor.”

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL

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