Pasco Sheriff’s Office announced the arrests of four individuals in a human trafficking case that extended beyond Pasco County. Pasco Sheriff Chris Nocco, along with Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody and members of Florida Department of Law Enforcement and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office, discussed the case at a news conference this afternoon.
A 16-year-old survivor, who was speaking with a Victim Advocate for another program, began to share her experiences with that Victim Advocate and this initiated an investigation. The survivor met several men on dating websites starting in December 2022. This included Randy Coffelt, Jr., 44, to whom the survivor was introduced while chatting on a site called Chat Avenue. The survivor believed that she was in a dating relationship with Coffelt and talked with him frequently, first through Chat Avenue’s private messaging feature, then through text messages. The survivor informed Coffelt of her age, to which Coffelt stated that he “liked young girls.” At the time of this conversation, the survivor was 15 years old.
The two continued to talk and Coffelt expressed that he wanted the survivor 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. The survivor agreed to do this as she felt it would please Coffelt.
During March 2023, Coffelt made an account on the website, Adult Friend Finder, and made arrangements with three men through the site to meet with the survivor to engage in sexual conduct. All three encounters were similar. Coffelt provided the men with the survivor’s contact information. Each man then picked up the survivor from her home, engaged in sexual conduct with the survivor while filming or attempting to film the acts and transmitted the videos back to Coffelt. The men also provided drugs and vapes to the survivor during their encounters.
The men are identified as Branden Sarno, 33 of Port Richey, Sidney Smith, 68 of Holiday and John Kehinde, 29 of New Port Richey. Coffelt has a history of domestic violence. Sarno was previously arrested in 2013 during a joint human trafficking operation conducted by Florida Department of Law Enforcement and Department of Homeland Security and is a convicted felon. Neither Smith nor Kehinde have a significant criminal history.
Through investigative means, it was determined that Coffelt resides in Middleburg, Fla. Therefore, Clay County Sheriff’s Office was called to assist with his arrest. The Pasco Sheriff’s Office is deeply grateful for their care and commitment to this case. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement also assisted and continues to assist with this investigation.
All individuals in this case were charged with several crimes, including Human Trafficking, Use of a Child in Sexual Performance and more. Arrests in this case were made possible by the tireless work of several agencies, including FDLE and the Clay County Sheriff’s Office. PSO is thankful for the collaborative efforts of these agencies for their assistance in bringing justice to the survivor.
Sheriff Chris Nocco urged parents and guardians to be aware of what children are doing online and with whom they are speaking. Speaking of human trafficking, Sheriff Nocco said, “its happening online.” He also urged any additional victims to have the courage to come forward and report it.
Attorney General Ashley Moody stated, “This is an incredibly devastating case.” She continued by discussing the level of control Coffelt had over the survivor, as well as the bravery of the survivor in coming forward. “This young victim who bravely came forward to work with law enforcement officers has no doubt saved young girls from going through this same hell.” She also commended those who worked on this case for their diligent and immediate action.
FDLE Commissioner Mark Glass said, “This suspect was a master groomer in the most reprehensible sense of the term, manipulating and exploiting a vulnerable minor for his own twisted gains. I am grateful to FDLE’s agents and analysts, the investigators at Pasco Sheriff’s Office, and the prosecutors at Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution for their work on this case to ensure that his days of preying on our youth are over.”
Although all suspects were arrested in this case, there are the potential for additional victims and survivors. This remains an active and ongoing investigation. Anyone that may be a victim in this or any human trafficking case, should notify law enforcement immediately. To make a report with PSO, call 727-847-8102, option 7. Anyone with information in this case is urged to call the Pasco Sheriff’s Crime Tips Line at 1-800-706-2488, or report tips online at PascoSheriff.com/tips. Human trafficking can be reported through FDLE’s Human Trafficking Hotline at 855-FLA-SAFE.
PSO is deeply committed to combating the scourge of human trafficking, and will continue to investigate these and all crimes with vigor.