TAMPA – The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office arrested a principal with the Hillsborough County School District on multiple charges after he sent sexually explicit texts to an undercover detective he assumed was a juvenile.
From January 19 to January 27, 2022, undercover detectives were portraying themselves as a 15-year-old boy during a chat operation to identify individuals attempting to exploit children. Derrick McLaughlin, 41, initiated a text conversation on a social media app with the undercover detectives during this time. Over the course of the investigation, McLaughlin attempted to entice the undercover detectives he believed was a teenager to engage in sexual acts. McLaughlin is the principal at Dawson Elementary School in Riverview, FL.
On January 27, 2022, McLaughlin was taken into custody. He faces charges of Transmission of Harmful Material to a Minor, Unlawful Use of a Two-Way Communications Device, and Use of Computer Services or Devices to Solicit Certain Illegal Acts. McLaughlin made suicidal comments at the time of his arrest and has been placed under a Baker Act.
“It’s sickening that a trusted member of our community, a school principal, would take advantage of a child for his own self-gratification,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “Thankfully, it was not a child, but one of our detectives, who was on the receiving end of his obscene messages. No child should be subjected to the disturbing behavior put on display by McLaughlin.”
There is no indication that there are any additional victims at this time. The investigation remains active.