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ORLANDO, Fla. — A meetup at a Haines City motel arranged through an online dating site ended in a heinous attack by a knife-wielding man who posed as a narcotics agent, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
In a statement, PCSO spokeswoman Alicia Manautou said the attack occurred Tuesday at the Stay Plus Inn, which is on U.S. Highway 27. The victim called 911 to report that he had been raped and robbed there.
The victim told detectives he had been talking to an unknown man, who deputies later identified as 37-year-old Thomas Lee Simmons of Winter Haven, through a dating site, which led to them agreeing to meet.
When Simmons arrived, he drew a knife from a sheath on his belt and ordered the victim to strip and lie on the bed, PCSO said.
The victim reportedly told detectives that Simmons claimed during the ordeal that he was “with the narcotics unit,” pretended to talk to someone on a radio and said there were other officers outside the room.
Simmons then raped the victim, deputies said.
“After the armed sexual battery, the suspect told the victim that he had ‘agents’ going to the victim’s sister’s house and they were going to ‘get her as well,’” PCSO’s statement said.
Before leaving, deputies say Simmons stole the victim’s driver’s license, passport, iPhone, Apple Watch and several pairs of Air Jordan shoes.
PCSO said deputies identified Simmons as a suspect and found him and the stolen property at his girlfriend’s home in Winter Haven. A knife that fit the victim’s description was in Simmons’ truck, deputies said.
After initially giving a false name, Simmons eventually admitted to investigators that he’d had sex with someone at the Stay Plus Inn and taken the person’s property without permission.
Simmons was jailed on charges of sexual battery, armed robbery, grand theft, dealing stolen property and lying to law enforcement. He also had an outstanding warrant for failing to appear in court in Orange County.
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In a statement, Polk Sheriff Grady Judd urged caution when arranging an in-person meeting with someone through a dating site.
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“I encourage anyone using online dating services to be cautious,” Judd said. “Meet with strangers in a public place, like a restaurant, and never give out your personal information like your home address until you at least get to know that person better.”