EAST NAPLES —
4284 Avalon Drive, Naples, FL
Two more senior citizens were picked up in a Sugden Regional Park sex sting Wednesday night, according to the Collier County Sheriff’s Office.
Three weeks ago, four others were arrested for seeking sex in the East Naples park.
Richard Albert Poulin, 77, of New Hampshire, and Gregory William Roberts, 70, of the 5500 block of Rattlesnake Hammock, East Naples, were arrested separately and charged with indecent exposure. Poulin was also charged with misdemeanor battery after grabbing the undercover investigator’s crotch while exposing himself.
An arrest report indicated Roberts told an undercover deputy that he liked a certain sexual act and he warned a deputy that “you have to be careful because a bunch of other people just got arrested for picking up other guys in the park,” the report said. He then entered the passenger side of the car and began masturbating.
But according to one suspect, it was the deputies who were in the wrong.
“The whole thing was a setup and a trap,” said Roberts, who is single, according to the report. “They came in there in force. And they came after me. I did not (approach them).”
He said he was followed into the bathroom by one undercover deputy who tried to persuade him to have sex. That’s when Roberts, before walking away, warned the man that people have been arrested for that sort of thing in that park, Roberts said.
After that, another undercover deputy in a car rolled down a window, smiled and made a comment about what types of sex he liked.
Roberts declined to talk about what happened next.
“I can’t even comment on that,” he said, saying he needed to talk with his attorney. “My God, what am I supposed to say.”
Poulin, whose report listed him as married, could not be reached for comment.
When asking the Sheriff’s Office to discuss the sting and allegations that Roberts had been set up, the department had this to say: “Specific details regarding the ways we keep our parks safe are considered tactical in nature and cannot be discussed without compromising those safety plans,” spokeswoman Kristi Lester said in an e-mail.
One of the men arrested in the January sting also said he was approached by the deputies, not the other way around.
“He was the one that tried to pick me up,” James Joseph Dotalo, 41, said in an earlier report.
At that time, Cmdr. Bill McDonald of the Sheriff’s Office’s patrol division told a reporter that the targets of the sting approach the undercover deputies.
“In these situations, just like prostitution, we are the ones that are propositioned,” McDonald said.
There can be a fine line between presenting an opportunity to someone who is willing to break the law and entrapment, said David Steckler, a Florida Gulf Coast University legal and justice studies instructor.
“Where the idea for the crime comes from the (government) agent ... that’s entrapment,” he said. “If I give a target an opportunity to commit a crime and the person does, it’s generally not considered entrapment.”
While law enforcement can make mistakes, these types of operations are guided by rules, said Eugene Milhizer, dean of Ave Maria’s law school.
“In my experience, police departments are very well trained and they have standard operating procedures that specify what they’re permitted to do and what they’re not permitted to do,” he said.
Lester added that the department patrols all parks in marked and unmarked cars day and night and will continue these types of sting operations.
Connect with Tara E. McLaughlin at www.naplesnews.com/staff/tara-mclaughlin/