SARASOTA, Fla. – A South Florida man was arrested Saturday after he traveled across the state in a U-Haul truck to meet a 16-year-old North Carolina girl who was on vacation with family friends, authorities said.
Sarasota County Sheriff's Office deputies said they arrested John Mattaliano after he rented a U-Haul truck and traveled from his home in Lake Worth to meet with the teenager.
Deputies said Mattaliano was found hiding in a wooded area near where the girl was staying.
According to a probable cause affidavit, the girl said she met Mattaliano on an internet chat room while she was in North Carolina. She said Mattaliano located her while she was vacationing in Florida and planned to meet and leave with her.
The teen told deputies that Mattaliano initially lied about his age, but he later revealed that he was 37. She said their online relationship became romantic and continued for about three months, during which time he sent her pictures of his penis.
According to the report, Mattaliano bought her a cellphone and started a social media account for her so that they could communicate with each other. However, the girl said she became scared and decided to tell authorities after he showed up at the home where she was staying.
Deputies said Mattaliano admitted to using the phone's tracking system to find the girl as she traveled throughout Sarasota County.