Lakeland man charged with sexually abusing 2 toddlers, facing 197 felony charges

James Ballone (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

LAKELAND, FL (WFLA) — A Lakeland man has been accused of sexually abusing two 2-year-old boys, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.

James Ballone, age 53, is also accused of photographing the molestation, and showing adult pornography to two other children. Ballone was arrested during a July 2016 undercover child pornography investigation and has been in jail since that time.

On Tuesday, detectives filed 132 additional charges against him.

PCSO says Ballone was originally charged with 65 counts possession of child pornography, with bond assessed at $15,000 per count. He was charged with an additional two counts of capital sexual battery, six counts of lewd molestation, five counts of lewd exhibition, three counts of promotion of sexual performance, 115 counts of possession of child pornography and one count of unnatural and lascivious act, bringing his total count to 197 felony charges.

The new charges stem from follow-up investigation. Equipment seized from Ballone’s home during “Operation Child Shield III,” detectives discovered child pornography created by Ballone in his home involving two Polk County children. The children were both identified as kids with whom Ballone had access.

Detectives say he engaged in sexual activity with one victim between 2010 and 2011, when the victim was 2 to 3 years-old. Detectives also found more than 160 images of another 2-year-old child taken within Ballone’s home.

During this investigation, detectives interviewed all children with whom Ballone had access, and found two additional victims who had been exposed to adult pornography, for a total of four children who were victimized by Ballone. “I went to Jim’s, he has cameras all over the place, even in the bathroom,” one victim said.

Ballone’s home and vehicle were filled with children’s toys, car seats, blankets, stuffed animals, furniture, and the latest electronics and gaming equipment.

Detectives say the victims would watch Ballone and his wife having sex in the home. Detectives say he told one of the victims, “If you tell anyone you will be in trouble by me.”

Ballone’s criminal history includes two prior arrests in 1983-1984, both in New York, for “sodomy on a child under 11 years of age” and “sexual contact with a person one to 14 years of age.” The 1983 arrest was downgraded to misdemeanor sexual abuse, for which he was sentenced to 60 days in jail and 3 years probation; the 1984 resulted in a paid fine and time served.

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