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Human Trafficking Sting Nets 228 Arrests

Undercover investigations for child porn, human trafficking, and other sex crimes are common in Florida. Seeing that the Sunshine State is one of the top states in terms of high human trafficking numbers, law enforcement officials work hard to make arrests and prosecute these crimes.

They do this through sting operations on a regular basis. An eight-day-long undercover investigation, dubbed Operation March Sadness 2024, recently ended in Polk County. During this period, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office arrested 228 people for human trafficking crimes and rescued 13 victims. There were 150 suspects arrested for soliciting a prostitute, with 12 other suspects arrested for taking prostitutes to the undercover location.

Of the 228 arrested, 42 are from Polk County and 21 were in the United States illegally. Their home countries include Mexico, Peru, Chile, Cuba, Guatemala, and Venezuela. Eighteen were from other states, such as California, Alabama, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Massachusetts, Tennessee, Wisconsin, and Maryland.

Human trafficking involves people of all ages. The youngest person arrested was just 16 years old, while the oldest was 73. Forty-one of the suspects said they are married, while 11 suspects receive government assistance. Forty-four people brought marijuana, fentanyl, cocaine, heroin, and other illegal drugs to the undercover location. Fifteen people brought firearms, with 17 guns seized in total.

In total, detectives charged 288 misdemeanors and 70 felonies. Those arrested included teachers, coaches, medical professionals, IT professionals, and active military members. Ironically, one of those arrested was a detention deputy with the Polk County Sheriff’s Office who was fired from his job and arrested just last month. Of the 66 suspected prostitutes that were arrested, 13 were identified as human trafficking victims.

Among those arrested were two brothers from Wesley Chapel. The boys, who are 16 and 17 years old, showed up to the location armed with a BB gun, wearing hoodies and ski masks, as if they were about to commit an armed robbery. This shows how dangerous human trafficking is for all involved. It is believed that a female human trafficker based in Miami helped set up appointments for the victims.

Detectives and social service organizations screened those accused of prostitution to see if they were being trafficked or exploited. They were also offered social services by various organizations.

The sheriff’s office had a warning to others engaged in human trafficking crimes — pay attention. This is not the last operation. One will happen again, someday, somewhere. You will “be arrested if you are stupid enough to show up.”

Contact a Legal Professional for Help

Human trafficking is a serious crime that is prosecuted and punished aggressively.

Don’t handle these crimes on your own. A Florida minor sex offense lawyer from the Law Offices of Gilbert A. Schaffnit can help defend you from the accusations. We will ensure a fair trial and favorable outcome. To schedule a consultation, fill out the online form or call (352) 505-1799.



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