POLK COUNTY, Fla. – Florida law enforcement authorities arrested 277 people, including many professionals, during a weeklong undercover sex sting operation.
“Operation No Tricks, No Treats” began Oct. 10 and ran until Oct. 15, according to a press release from the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
During the operation, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads or profiles on various social media platforms, websites, and mobile phone applications, posing as prostitutes or those soliciting prostitutes. Some of the detectives responded to profiles and online ads posted by prostitutes. Despite the repeated warnings and media coverage of past operations, numerous suspects responded to the ads and drove to one of the two different undercover locations to engage in illegal prostitution.
— Polk County Sheriff (@PolkCoSheriff) October 17, 2017
Investigators reported 209 of those arrested were accused of “soliciting undercover detectives.” The Orlando Sentinel reported 51 others had displayed themselves as prostitutes on the Internet. The office stated 17 others were arrested for other offenses.
“That’s the most we have ever arrested in the history of the sheriff’s office,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
The sheriff identified some of the suspects arrested as a cancer surgeon, teacher, pediatrician, Air Force veteran, retired deputy sheriff, retired police officer, active colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps and several pharmacists. They range in age from 16 to 74 years old.
Yet the revelation of those arrested hit close to home when Judd revealed the sting netted one of his own sergeants.
Sgt. Luis Diaz was among those arrested. He had been with the Sheriff’s Office for 17 years. Consequently, he resigned after the sting, FOX13 reported.
“We are absolutely embarrassed,” Judd said. “We hold our own accountable. He messed up and no longer works for the Sherriff’s Office.”
— Melissa Marino (@WFLAMelissaM) October 17, 2017
The suspects face 334 charges, including human trafficking and soliciting another for prostitution.
“We are committed to fighting human trafficking, by arresting those who engage in prostitution and trying to identify human trafficking victims,” Judd said. “It’s no secret. You need to stay out of Polk County if you’re going to commit crime.”
The office stated 215 people traveled to Polk County from other areas in Florida or were visiting the state from Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
The undercover operation included detectives and agents from the following agencies: Haines City P.D.; Lakeland P.D.; Lake Wales P.D., and Winter Haven P.D.; working in conjunction with members of the State Attorney’s Office.
(Photo: Polk County Sheriff’s Office Twitter)