BREVARD COUNTY — A Vero Beach man and a Palm Bay woman were recently jailed after officials said they recruited young girls to engage in sexual activities in exchange for money. The acts took place in January at a hotel in West Melbourne, reports show.
The joint case was investigated by the Brevard County Sheriff’s Office, Florida Department of Law Enforcement, Seminole County Sheriff’s Office and West Melbourne Police Department. The case will be prosecuted by Attorney General Ashley Moody’s Office of Statewide Prosecution, officials said.
“This sick criminal duo used social media to target and lure young girls for sex, including a 14-year-old from a foster home,” Moody said in a statement. “I am thankful for the multiple law enforcement agencies that investigated this case, and I look forward to my statewide prosecutors securing convictions for these loathsome predators.”
Marc Phillip Dinkels, 33, of the 1800 block of Berkshire Circle, Vero Beach, was charged with two counts of human trafficking and one count each of lewd and lascivious battery, use of a child in sexual performance, unlawful sexual activity with certain minors, unlawful use of a two-way communication device to facilitate the commission of a felony and battery.
Taylor Kathleen Brandt, 19, of the 1900 block of Ohio Street, Palm Bay, was charged with two counts of lewd and lascivious battery and one count each of human trafficking, use of a child in a sexual performance and use of a two-way communication device to facilitate a felony.
Dinkels and Brandt were both being held at the Brevard County Jail without bond.
“Investigators found that Brandt and Dinkels recruited three juvenile females to perform sex acts with them for money,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement officials said in a statement. “In several of the instances, Dinkels videotaped the sex acts.”
The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office began investigating the case March 8 after one of the underage girls at an Oviedo group home showed cell phone videos of the sex acts to an employee, reports show.
The girl said Brandt contacted her through Instagram. Brandt told the girl that Dinkels offered her money in exchange for sexual favors, reports show.
Officials looked at the girl’s phone and discovered text messages with Brandt, two other underage girls and Dinkels that discussed participating in sexual acts for money, reports show. Investigators also found photos and footage of the sex acts on the phone.
“Predators who take advantage of children like this have no place in our communities, and I hope this arrest sends a warning to anyone else who might seek to exploit Florida’s youth,” Florida Department of Law Enforcement Acting Commissioner Mark Glass said in a statement. “I am proud of the work of our members and our criminal justice partners to ensure these suspects are held accountable for their criminal actions.”
The Brevard County Sheriff’s Office and Florida Department of Law Enforcement took over the case after officials learned the acts took place in West Melbourne.
Text messages recovered by investigators showed that the girls told Dinkels they were underage, a claim Dinkels denied, reports show. Florida Department of Law Enforcement officers and Brevard County deputies arrested Dinkels and Brandt.
“I could not be more proud of the amazing team of agents that brought these disgusting individuals to justice. Anyone who is evil enough to harm a child needs to be locked behind bars where they can never harm another child in our community or anywhere else on the planet,” Brevard County Sheriff Wayne Ivey said in a statement. “I want to personally thank Attorney General Ashley Moody for prosecuting these types of cases and also FDLE for all their support in fighting the exploitation of children. Cases like this are a perfect example of how law enforcement agencies work together to keep our children safe.”