BARTOW, FL – The Polk County Sheriff’s Office ran a seven-day operation that was designed to lure in not only those who participate in prostitution but also identify persons who may be victims of human trafficking.
The operation was a success with 160 people being arrested for various crimes along with at least two human trafficking victims potentially saved.
Grady Judd arrests deputy police chief in prostitution sting. pic.twitter.com/YlfQwSoVKp
— Jimmy Ferreira🇺🇲 (@JimFerreira67) September 6, 2022
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd took the podium at a press conference to release the conclusion of a recent sex offender operation dubbed “Fall Haul 2.” The operation, which was launched on August 30th, was designed to lure in people who believed they were meeting with prostitutes.
Sheriff Judd announced the success of the operation which yielded a total of 160 people being charged with various crimes related to sex offenses. In all, the Sheriff’s Office was able to charge 52 felony and 216 misdemeanor charges against those arrested.
Sheriff Judd reported only 16 of the people who were arrested were from Polk County and the rest were from other counties in Florida or out-of-state residents.
Sheriff Judd said that those arrested ranged in age from 19 to 64 years of age. During the press conference, Sheriff Judd said:
“I think the people of Polk County are about to get the message that if you come here and violate the law, we’re going to put you in jail, and Brian Haas and his prosecutors are going to prosecute you…We’re pleased that it was only 16 [residents] of 160. Central Florida needs to catch a clue.”
Sheriff Grady Judd held a press conference this morning, outlining the 160 people arrested in a large human trafficking sting, including prostitutes, people seeking to procure sexual services, and other people related to the sex trade. https://t.co/xckQx9fGRy
— Aquilla❌⁉️ (@witrayler) September 10, 2022
Sheriff Judd reported some of those people who were taken into custody during the sting operation admitted to being victims of human trafficking. One of the alleged victims of human trafficking had a text message that had been received before being arrested which read:
“Just promise me you’ll be careful. Get out of that place because that is Polk County. Get out of there fast.”
Sheriff Judd reported that those people who are identified as being victims of human trafficking would have their arrests expunged and their records sealed.
They will also be allowed to participate in professional counseling services in hopes to break them free from their situation.
Sadly, the Sheriff also reported that some of those taken into custody are people that we would normally trust to be around our children, including two teachers and a Disney employee.
The two teachers, 36-year-old math teacher Carols Gonzalez and 26-year-old teacher and track coach John Layton, were both arrested for allegedly arriving at the location to solicit sex from prostitutes.
“What are you thinking?” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “You just want to go, ‘C’mon man, have you lost the last three brain cells, or do you just have cabbage for brains?’”https://t.co/bg4LsKuOgC
— KTLA (@KTLA) September 8, 2022
During the press conference, Sheriff Judd cracked a smile when he reported that Disney also had two employees arrested during the sting. The Sheriff said:
“Where would we be with an undercover operation and no Disney employees? Oh yes, we always have Disney employees.”
The Sheriff then presented a photograph of the Disney Coronado Springs Resort bellhop who allegedly agreed to pay $80 for sex online.
Another person, a photographer that was often contracted by Disney, was also taken into custody after also allegedly agreeing to a price for a prostitute online. Of course, the prostitutes were actually undercover Polk County Sheriff’s detectives.
Other arrests included Keith Nieves who works for the Lake County Correctional Institution and is a Deputy Chief of Police.
The former Deputy Chief of Police for the Cartersville Police Department in Georgia arrived at the sting location while driving an unmarked police vehicle that was actually assigned to his agency’s DEA task force.
After news of his arrest broke, the former Deputy Chief, Jason DiPrima, resigned from his position.
Nationwide law enforcement operation saves 121 actively missing kids, child sex trafficking victims
USA- Every once in a while, the FBI reverts back to doing what it is intended to do…investigate real crimes.
Such is the case where they announced that they had cracked a child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation ring, revealing that 84 minor child victims had been identified and located, Fox News reports.
In addition to those 84 victims, an additional 37 actively missing children were located during the nationwide enforcement effort, called “Operation Cross Country,” the Justice Department said in a news release, according to USA Today.
Moreover, the FBI and its criminal justice partners located an additional 141 adult victims of human trafficking. During the operation, 85 suspects of child sexual exploitation and human trafficking offenses were identified and/or arrested.
The Justice Department further reported that suspects may be subject to additional charges, based on where the investigations lead. They reported the average age of victims was approximately 15.5 years old, while the youngest victim found during the most recent probe was only 11 years old.
“The initiative really just takes a concentrated period of time where we’re just focused on the problem of child sex trafficking,” Section Chief Jose Perez, the man in charge of the FBI’s violent crime investigations said in a statement.
“What we do is we sit down with our local partners and our task forces and identify certain areas where we know sex trafficking is prevalent, and we’ll dedicate resources and efforts to identify and remove victims from those areas,” Perez added.
According to a report from the Human Trafficking Institute, over half of new human trafficking victims identified in 2021 were minors. They also note that out of all human trafficking cases filed last year, a staggering 92% were for sex trafficking.
“Unfortunately, such crime—against both adults and children—are far more common than most people realize As we did in this operation, the FBI and our partners will continue to find and arrest traffickers, identify and help victims, and raise awareness of the exploitation of our most vulnerable populations,” said FBI Director Christopher Wray.
Fox noted that in Atlanta alone, the operation located 19 missing children which resulted in the arrest of four traffickers. Meanwhile in Chattanooga, Tennessee teams of investigators from 14 law enforcement agencies worked on a three day operation.
That probe included locating sex offenders who had not registered as required by law, the tracking of online predators targeting children, and looking for a runaway teen at high risk of being trafficked.
That investigation led to the arrests of three individuals—one an unregistered sex offender, which will become a federal case—and two state arrests.
In addition, two more federal cases were opened on suspect believed to be involved with child sex abuse material production, or enticement violations.
The FBI further said such enticement typically involves using the internet to coerce either a child or someone connected to a child to engage in the manufacture of sexually explicit material of a child.
The FBI noted that social media has led to an increase in the ability of sex predators to exploit children online. With that in mind, the agency expanded this year’s Operation Cross Country to investigate sex offenders who may be eligible for federal charges, as well as people trying to connect with children online to sexually abuse them.
The National Center for Missing & Exploited Children commended law enforcement’s efforts, noting it reinforces what that agency sees on a regular basis.
“The success of Operation Cross Country reinforces what NCMEC sees every day. Children are being bought and sold for sex in communities across the country by traffickers, gangs, and even family members,” Michelle DeLaune, President and CEO of NCMEC said in a statement.
“We’re proud to support the FBI’s efforts to prioritize the safety of children. This national operation highlights the need for all child-serving professionals to continue to focus on the wellbeing of children and youth to prevent them from being targeted in the first place.”
In the Chattanooga case, the FBI said local law enforcement is looking for the runaway 17-year-old, whom they believe is at high risk for trafficking. Officials have examined her social media profiles and spoken with relatives in an attempt to locate her.
They further note that the teen has a history of trauma and family difficulty, with law enforcement promising to offer her services if she is indeed in danger of being trafficked the FBI’s Chattanooga victim specialist said.
Such specialists are an important component since they provide services tailored to the specific needs of human trafficking victims, including but not limited to crisis intervention, emergency food and clothing, transportation to receive emergency services, and locating housing or shelter.
The most recent task forces included assets from federal, state, local and tribal partners, with efforts taking place in every state and a number of U.S. territories.
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