POLK COUNTY, Fla. – During a seven-day undercover human trafficking operation, “Operation Traffic Stop,” which began on Monday, February 6, 2023, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit arrested 213 suspects.
Those who traveled to provide prostitution services were screened by detectives and social services organizations to determine if they were being trafficked or exploited by others and were offered services by the social services organizations at the operation.
89 suspects were arrested for soliciting a prostitute and traveling to the undercover location to negotiate to have sex in exchange for money. 13 other suspects were arrested. Of those, ten were either deriving proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitutes.
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During this investigation, 24 possible human trafficking victims were identified from the 111 prostitutes who were arrested, and Judd said some of these victims were smuggled through the southern border.
“These ladies all arrived within the last two years. The majority of them arrived within the last six months. Some of them arrived in the last two weeks. And, how did they get here?” said Judd. “What was told to us is that they were paying off their transportation debt. That they were being smuggled into the United States to have sex. That their family at home was being threatened. If they didn’t come here and do what they were supposed to and pay off the debts.”
“Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, we identified 24 human trafficking victims – the highest number of victims we’ve ever rescued during one of these investigations. The valuable relationships that we have with the social services organizations who join us in these operations make it possible for these women to get help and be emancipated from this way of life,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
Detectives seized fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, from those arrested during the operation.
Of the 213 arrested, Judd pointed out that a Trustee from the Del Mar Union School District in San Diego, California, Scott Wooden, was arrested on a Soliciting Prostitution charge and booked into the Polk County Jail.
Five suspects were previously arrested by PCSO during a similar undercover operation, and two of those were just arrested during the September 2022 “Operation Fall Haul II.”
14 of the arrested are suspected of being in the country illegally, 13 from Cuba and one from Mexico, and six of the 14 were identified as victims of human trafficking.
- 35 suspects told detectives they are married.
- Detectives charged those arrested with a total of 68 felonies and 308 misdemeanors.
- Several of the suspects have criminal histories, including violent felonies such as kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault, and sex offenses.
- 22 suspects told detectives they receive government assistance.
- Detectives seized fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, from those arrested during the operation.
- Two of the suspects brought firearms to the undercover location – Rydreka Harris and Horace Levatte.
- The oldest person arrested is 68 years old Dellbert Dinsmore, while the youngest is 19 years old Jamal Spike
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