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Police in Polk County, Florida, reported on Tuesday the arrest of 17 people in an undercover operation targeting child sexual predators. Among them, there were three Disney World employees.
One of the Disney employees, identified as Kenneth Javier Aquino (26), was also a Navy veteran. Aquino, who told authorities he worked as a lifeguard at Animal Kingdom Lodge, engaged in a social media conversation with an undercover detective posing as a 13-year-old girl.
According to the police report, Aquino asked the alleged girl to send him photos and sent her an explicit video of himself. They also communicated through text messages. He asked for the address of the undercover location and arrived as soon as he got off work, still wearing his uniform with Disney insignia. He was eventually arrested without incident.
The other two Disney employees were a couple who intended to have sex with a 13-year-old girl. Jonathan McGrew (34) initiated contact with the alleged infant, also via social media, and invited her to his home to join in intimate acts with his partner, Savannah Lawrence (29), in the Florida city of Kissimmee.
At the same time, McGrew was making contact with another undercover agent posing as another 14-year-old girl, with the same intentions. He also sent intimate videos of the couple having sex. The subject requested location data and arrived with Lawrence at the location where they were to pick up their victim. Both were arrested without incident.
Both Lawrence and McGrew worked as security guards at Walt Disney World Hollywood Studios (formerly known as Disney-MGM Studios), located outside Orlando.
The 17 arrested also included a registered nurse and two military veterans. The operation took place between July 27 and August 1. The suspects, who are mostly from Florida, are between the ages of 26 and 47, and some have criminal records.
“These are nasty, nasty, nasty people,” said Polk Sheriff Grady Judd. “We can’t even use the words they used. Obviously, we can’t show the images and the video clips they sent to what they thought were little girls and little 13-year-old boys.”
Among the agencies involved in the operation were the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, Auburndale Police Department, Orlando Police Department, Winter Haven Police Department and Orange County Sheriff’s Office.
Another scandal for Disney
This is not the first time Disney, a company that claims to be committed to inclusion and diversity, has been exposed in controversy. During the wave of allegations against Hollywood moguls such as Harvey Weinstein in 2007, Walt Disney Co. was splashed by sexual misconduct scandals that have affected some of its rivals.
“While Amazon (Roy Price), Warner Bros. (Brett Ratner) and Netflix (Kevin Spacey) were forced to confront the public about their respective controversies, Disney managed to stay above the fray,” Variety magazine wrote at the time.
When John Lasseter, the creative force behind Pixar and Walt Disney Animation Studios, was accused of inappropriate behavior toward women, he left the company.
Meryl Streep herself said in a speech in front of the 2014 National Board of Review Awards that Walt Disney was a “gender bigot” and an “anti-Semite.”
More recently, Walt Disney’s own great-niece, Abigail Disney, has criticized the company for what she says are corrupt values, highlighting a wave of executive bonuses in the midst of the pandemic.
During May of this year, Christopher F. Rufo, director of the Discovery Institute’s Center on Wealth and Poverty and also a contributor to City Journal, revealed that Disney runs an “anti-racist” program that demeans its white employees.
Tomás Lugo, journalist and writer. Born in Venezuela and graduated in Social Communication. Has written for international media outlets. Currently living in Colombia // Tomás Lugo, periodista y articulista. Nacido en Venezuela y graduado en Comunicación Social. Ha escrito para medios internacionales. Actualmente reside en Colombia.