• Sun. Dec 4th, 2022

Week of multi-agency prostitution ends with 160 arrests, Polk County sheriff says

ByJanice K. Merrill

Sep 9, 2022

POLK COUNTY, Florida. – A recent seven-day multi-agency undercover prostitution investigation involving the Polk County Sheriff’s Office resulted in 160 arrests across Central Florida, Sheriff Grady Judd said Friday.

Nicknamed “Autumn Transport 2“said Judd, the operation focused on rescuing victims of human trafficking, registering them with social services and prosecuting their captors. Two victims of trafficking were identified and referred to such programs, the sheriff’s office said, and five other people have been identified as potential victims.

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Judd held a press conference Friday morning to discuss the investigation. According to the sheriff’s office, the majority of those arrested in the operation are from the Orlando area.

“Many of these people were already well known to the criminal justice system. Only 16 of the 160 were from Polk County. I think the people of Polk County are about to realize that if you come here and break the law, we’re going to put you in jail, and (Polk area attorney) Brian Haas and his prosecutors are going to prosecute you said Judd. “So we’re glad it’s only 16 out of 160. Central Florida needs to grab a clue. If you come here to commit a crime, you come here to go to our jail.

In a press release shared ahead of the conference, the sheriff’s office highlighted some people’s arrests as part of the investigation: “teachers, a state corrections officer, a deputy police chief from Georgia, 26 married men, 15 people from other states and a Disney employee Judd gave more details on most of that shortlist on Friday.

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A 36-year-old Davenport man who worked as a math teacher at New Dimensions High School in Osceola County was arrested when he sought to have sex with two undercover detectives, Judd said. Another teacher, a 26-year-old Gotha male employed in physical education at West Orange High School in Orange County, responded to an online escort advertisement and was arrested wearing a school athletic shirt, said Judd.

“Maybe he and the math teacher can talk about ‘How did you get here? Well, one and one made two. He said ‘Well, you know, I’m a track coach, I sprinted to jail,’” Judd said.

A former school employee who requested an escort ad online was also on the list. A 41-year-old former computer technician from Oak Ridge High School in Orange County was arrested while on bail following an arrest in March on charges of having a years-long sexual relationship with a underage student, Judd said.

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The correctional officer mentioned in the preliminary statement was described Friday as a 24-year-old employee of Lake Correctional Institution, charged with two counts of soliciting a prostitute.

“Now think about that. This guy is in charge of people who are in jail for breaking the law. He comes and he breaks the law. So the birds of a feather flock together, and he’s in jail as a prisoner like those prisoners he watches over,” Judd said.

Undercover detectives have arrested a 57-year-old Winter Garden man employed as a bellhop at Disney’s Coronado Springs Resort, accused of soliciting a prostitute after responding in person to an online escort ad. Another man, a 61-year-old Kentucky man vacationing in Kissimmee, also responded to an online escort ad and faces the same misdemeanor charge; Judd said the Kentucky man owns several pizza franchises.

“He said ‘Well, I’ve done it four times in the past.’ Did you discuss it with your wife? Did you get her permission? Did she say, ‘Come on man come on?’ Apparently not,” Judd said. “So he said (to a law enforcement officer), he said ‘I’m paying for an hour of sex, 15 minutes is all I need, I’m just going to tip him.’ I guess a bit like the pizza delivery boy.

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Judd briefly discussed the man who was arrested last week while employed as an officer in Georgia, saying he has since quit and “lost his career.”

“He did a very nasty, nasty thing to his family, and he certainly embarrassed everyone in Cartersville, GA,” Judd said.

The sheriff was accompanied in part by representatives of social service organizations who participated in “Fall Haul 2”.

Dr. Marianne Thomas from the organization My Name My Voice spoke about the importance of helping victims of human trafficking cooperate with law enforcement and “get out of this life”.

“If you’re someone I met on this operation, and you were under arrest, and you were there to sell yourself, I just want to remind you of something you heard me say. that night: ‘You don’t have to do this, you can do something different, I’m standing here saying it can be done,” Thomas said. “You’re given a packet of paper with different phone numbers, call one of them. If you don’t get the answer you need, call the next one, but please make those calls. And if you are someone who has been arrested for buying a nobody, that’s not OK. We don’t buy people, that’s not OK. And so, I’m sorry that we had to meet like this. But I’m really glad that we’re doing this because I really hope you learned a lesson here.

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My Name My Voice was joined in the operation by other social service organizations One More Child, Heartland for Children, Selah Freedom and the Children’s Home Society of Florida.

Along with arrests related to accused prostitution and lewd crimes, a 29-year-old man and a 25-year-old woman who allegedly offered to trade cannabis for sex face child abuse and drug charges after having encountered undercover detectives carrying a 2 yr- old child and a pound of marijuana.

The sheriff’s office was joined in “Fall Haul 2” by police departments from Haines City, Lake Wales, Davenport, Bartow and Winter Haven, Judd said.

A previous “Fall Haul” in 2019 lasted a month and also resulted in arrests for alleged sex crimes.

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