Four people working for Disney and a retired judge were among 108 people arrested in a six-day operation last week targeting human trafficking, prostitution and child predators, the office said Wednesday. Polk County Sheriff.
At a news conference Wednesday, the sheriff’s office said police departments in Winter Haven, Haines City, Lake Wales and Auburndale assisted the agency in the operation, which began March 8. The State’s Attorney’s Office, 10th Judicial Court, members of the Florida Department of Children and Families, One More Child, Heartland for Children and Sarasota’s Selah Freedom also assisted.
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Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said counseling services join the sheriff’s office in every operation to help deputies identify victims, provide assistance and track incidents. Judd said investigators found a 36-year-old victim being threatened by a 32-year-old woman into prostitution. One of the anti-trafficking organizations helped the victim.
“We help identify victims when they are picked up. And as soon as they are picked up, we can sit down with them,” said Marianne Thomas, anti-trafficking manager for One More Child. “We are able to explain to them the services that are there for them, explain to them what the next steps are for them and get them out of this situation. This time we were able to find a trafficker and it makes my heart so happy.”
She said that many suspects arrested for prostitution are also victims.
“We hit a grand slam in that we also found child sexual predators,” Judd said at the press conference.
Judd said one of the suspects arrested for child predator was from Mulberry and went to an undercover location thinking he was meeting a very young child for sex. He was charged with using a computer to lure and travel to meet a minor, attempted obscene battery, transmitting harmful material to a minor, possession of methamphetamine, resistance, and possession of drug paraphernalia.
The sheriff’s office says a 66-year-old Palos Hills, Illinois suspect charged with soliciting prostitution told detectives he was a retired Cook County Fourth Sub-Circuit judge and a Special Assistant for Legal Affairs in the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Four suspects were Disney employees. Judd said a 27-year-old lifeguard at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort believed he was texting a 14-year-old and sent detectives sexual images. He was charged with three counts of transmitting material harmful to minor and unlawful use of a two-way communication device.
The other three Disney employees were charged with soliciting prostitution. Judd said one of the suspects worked at Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland, one was a software developer and the other had been an information technology employee for four years.
Of the 108 arrests, four suspects were arrested for traveling to meet or send obscene media to a minor, 75 were arrested for soliciting prostitutes, and four of the 75 suspects are also charged with assault and battery. Twenty-five were charged with offering to prostitute themselves. The suspect accused of trafficking the identified prostitution victim was also arrested on five counts, including four felonies. Three others were arrested for aiding prostitution, driving with a suspended or revoked license and forging identity.
This article originally appeared on The Ledger: Disney workers, former judge among 108 arrested for sex sting