School bus driver accused of seeking sex from teen girl

A Union County school bus driver and former swim coach remained in a Florida jail Monday, charged with soliciting sex from someone he believed to be a 14-year-old girl.

Michael Richard Wullschleger, 48, was on vacation in the Orlando area when he was arrested Friday by the Polk County Sheriff's Office as part of a crackdown on Internet-related crime.

After dropping off his wife, daughter and his daughter's friend Friday morning at Disney World, Wullschleger returned to his hotel room and began instant-messaging via computerwith undercover detectives posing online as 14-year-old girls, according to the Sheriff's Office.

During the chats, Wullschleger, using the screen name CHLTNCM, asked “if they'd ever been with a guy over 40, and if they wanted to … and discussed watching X-rated movies with them,” according to a news release by the Sheriff's Office. He told one of them he could teach her a sex act, according to a detective's affidavit.

Wullschleger later drove 45 miles from the hotel to a Lakeland gas station to meet the girl, deputies said. Instead, he was greeted by law enforcement officers. He told detectives he had used the screen name CHLTNCM, had chatted about wanting to engage in sexual activity but did not intend to go through with it, according to the affidavit.

Wullschleger was the only N.C. man among three arrested separately late last week as part of Operation Marauder, the Polk County Sheriff's Office's crackdown.

He is charged with one felony count each of using a computer to seduce a child and traveling to meet a minor for sex. He also faces two felony charges of receiving computer statements for the purpose of sexual conduct with a child. He could face a maximum of 30 years in prison if convicted. His bond has been set at $80,000.

A background check on Wullschleger by The Charlotte Observer turned up no prior arrests.

“We are not aware of any misconduct or suspicion of misconduct when he was on the job,” Union County Public Schools spokeswoman Luan Ingram said.

Wullschleger started working for Union County Public Schools in 1999 as a part-time swim coach at Parkwood High School in southwestern Union County and substitute bus driver, two years before the school system began mandatory criminal background checks, Ingram said. He eventually stopped coaching for the school system but continued to drive buses for Waxhaw Elementary and Parkwood middle and high schools. Wullschleger has been suspended without pay pending the outcome of his case, Ingram said.

Court and law enforcement officials in Polk County, Fla., could not say whether an attorney had been appointed for Wullschleger. A phone message left for his wife was not returned.

Wullschleger also was a part-time assistant swimming coach with the Wingate University men's and women's teams from 2004 to 2007, athletics director Steve Poston said.

Most recently, Wullschleger coached the Monroe Swim Team, a summer recreational squad for young children and teens. Wullschleger's contract with the swim team expired July 31, according to Julia Wheeler, the team's president. Coaches' contracts with the team state that “they may be subject to a background check,” Wheeler wrote in an e-mailed statement.

“Rick had been involved with (Monroe Swim Team) for many years, both as a parent of swimmers and as a coach,” Wheeler wrote. “The Board never had any complaints or concerns from parents or swimmers regarding Rick, and we are all shocked by the allegations.”

Staff researcher Marion Paynter contributed.