A recent Florida sting targeting human trafficking and online prostitution resulted in 277 arrests from all over the country and across a variety of professions.
According to WFLA, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office ran “Operation No Tricks, No Treats” from Oct. 10 to Oct. 16. Undercover detectives posed as prostitutes or a person seeking sex from a prostitute. Other detectives would respond to ads and profiles posted by prostitutes.
Sheriff Grady Judd said during a press conference that 51 of the arrests were related to those who advertised online as a prostitute, 209 of the arrests were those who solicited undercover detectives posing as prostitutes and 17 arrests were made for other offenses. Judd said two of the male suspects traveled to have sex with minors and two others were sex offenders.
Five of the people found during the sting are also possible human trafficking victims, according to WFLA.
“That’s the most we have ever arrested in the history of the sheriff’s office,” Judd said during the conference. “...Sex sells. It’s the most powerful thing in the world and it brings down kingdoms.”
The suspects, ranging in age from 16 to 74, now face charges of human trafficking, traveling to meet a child for sexual conduct, battery, violation of probation and drug possession, according to the Orlando Sentinel.
Officials said 215 of the suspects drove from all over Florida and the country including Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia, according to WFLA.
Those arrested came from a wide variety of professions and backgrounds, including doctors, teachers, active and retired military members and active and retired law enforcement officers, according to WFLA.
Judd said his officers caught one of their own during the sting. Former Sergeant Luis Diaz worked for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office for 17 years and resigned after being caught.
“We are absolutely embarrassed,” Judd said. “We hold our own accountable. He messed up and no longer works for the Sheriff’s Office.”
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office worked with officials from Haines City police, Lakeland police, Lakes Wales police, Winter Haven police and the State Attorney’s Office, according to the Orlando Sentinel.