At least 35 Disney employees have been arrested for child-related sex crimes over the last eight years, according to a six-month CNN "To Catch a Predator"-style investigation made public this week.
The crimes, with arrests dating back to 2006, range from trying to meet a minor for sex to possession of child pornography, and have resulted in 32 convictions, according to CNN
. The investigation took place in the Florida area and also implicated five Universal Studios employees and two SeaWorld workers.
None of the crimes involved children at the theme parks, though two of those arrested for possession of child pornography reportedly accessed the explicit material while on park property.
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None of the suspects had a prior history of sex crimes or a criminal background.
Detectives from the Lake County Sheriff's Office carried out the sex sting operation, posing as underage boys and girls and chatting with the suspects online.
Then, when the Disney employees showed up at a fake rental house to meet the decoys, police arrested them.
One of those picked up was 40-year-old Allen Treaster, who believed he was meeting a 14-year-old boy. Later, during police questioning, Treaster admitted that he had, in fact, had sex with a 15-year-old boy in Georgia three and a half weeks before the sheriff's office arrest.
He has pleaded not guilty.
Patrick Holgerson, a 32-year-old character actor at Disney, was arrested in February after sending nude photos and sexually explicit messages, and then showing up to meet who he thought was a 13-year-old boy and his uncle, according to CNN.
"I work with kids," Holgerson told the detectives during a videotaped interrogation. "I love kids and not in a bad way. I just have a strong connection with kids. I like working with kids. I just enjoy helping them grow and that's why I've been working with high schools for so long is because a lot of these kids look up to me."
"And that's why I was honestly worried about this kid. Because I felt his uncle was in the wrong. I would never do anything with the kid, I promise. I didn't want him hurt. And I'm being honest here."
He also pleaded not guilty.
Disney issued a statement on the sex sting arrests to CNN this week.
"Providing a safe environment for children and families is a responsibility we take very seriously. We have extensive measures in place, including pre-employment and ongoing criminal background checks and computer monitoring and firewalls," a spokeswoman said. "The numbers reported by CNN represent one one-hundredth of one percent of the 300,000 people we have employed during this time period."
The sting operation and CNN report have opened the floor to debate about the use of polygraph tests in employment screening. It is currently illegal for most private companies to subject potential employees to a lie detector test.
But U.S. Rep. Dennis Ross, R-Florida, wants to change that. According to CNN, he has proposed legislation that would give companies that cater to children an exemption to the Polygraph Act of 1988.
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