When NASA Ames engineer Phil Luna hopped on a plane and traveled cross-country for a meeting last week, authorities say, he was carrying two packs of Skittles in a plastic bag.
He thought he was meeting an 11-year-old girl he encountered online for sex, authorities say. Instead, the San Jose man was arrested and charged with a variety of sex crimes.
Luna was taken into custody after arriving at a prearranged meeting place in Central Florida, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office. Sheriff's officials say Luna answered an online ad posted by an undercover detective who posed online as a woman looking for some fun for her 11-year-old daughter.
Luna told authorities he is an engineer for Ames, which contracts with NASA, said sheriff's spokeswoman Carrie Eleazer. An Ames Research Center spokesman said Luna is the director of the Office of Safety and Mission Assurance and has been placed on paid administrative leave.
Luna faces several charges, including the attempted sexual battery of a victim under 12, travel to entice a parent or guardian to commit sex act with a child and travel to meet a minor for sex, according to the police report. He was released on bail and allowed to return, pending a trial.
Luna was one of 38 men arrested and charged with traveling to meet a minor for sex and other crimes during Operation Cyber Child, a 10-day undercover operation conducted by the Polk County Sheriff's Office, as the coordinator
During the operation, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads or profiles on various websites, such as Craigslist, posing as children or as custodians of children.
In some cases, the men chatted online, sent e-mails and text messages with the undercover detectives who posed as children online. The suspects solicited for sex acts, sent pornographic pictures and live webcam images of themselves and asked for nude photos of the children to be sent to them, according to the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
It was the ninth such operation conducted by the Polk County Sheriff's Office and the task force, and it yielded the largest number of arrests.
"We think we've seen it all until the next one walks through the door, and then we see something that seems to be a little more bizarre than the last time," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd told the Tampa Tribune.
Florida authorities say Luna was one of several men who responded to the ads. Luna responded to a Craigslist that simply read W4M "what's happening."
Police say Luna's response was "What do you have in mind. BTW, are you with law enforcement."
The undercover detectives responded to the e-mail and stated she was looking for fun for her 11-year-old daughter.
The e-mail exchange then went into more descriptive conversation about potential sex acts with the girl, according to the report.
Police say there are several recorded phone conversations between Luna and an undercover detective who pretended to be the mother and the girl. During the phone calls, Luna reportedly told the undercover detective he could teach the 11-year-old girl how to perform a certain sex act, according to the sheriff's office.
Luna told the undercover detective he would bring Skittles for the girl, as well as condoms.
On June 4 just after midnight, Luna arrived at the meeting place and was immediately arrested, according to the police report. Luna was carrying two packs of Skittles in a plastic bag and three packs of Lifestyles ultra lube plus condoms when he arrived at prearranged meeting place, according to a police report.
During a police interview, Luna confirmed his e-mail address, told authorities no one else uses his e-mail and that he used a laptop to send the e-mails.
He told detectives he talked on the phone with the 11-year-old girl but did not recall talking about sex.
When asked by investigators why he would talk about sex with an 11-year-old girl, Luna said it was a stupid mistake, according to a police report.
Contact Mark Gomez at 408-920-5869. Follow him on Twitter @MarkMgomez