104 arrests made during major undercover sting operation, Sheriff reveals
Polk County Sheriff’s Office announced the success of a major undercover Human Trafficking operation this week, that saw 104 people arrested in Florida.
Detectives led a six-day Human Trafficking sting from November 27 to December 2.
The operation focused on prostitutes posting online advertisements for sex as well as “johns” looking women and underage girls on the Internet.
Undercover detectives created fake profiles on social media platforms and posted ads online using websites, and mobile phone applications, posing as prostitutes, underage girls, or those soliciting prostitutes.
Some of the detectives found profiles and online ads posted by prostitutes and responded to them.
According to ABC Action News, a total of 104 arrests were made.
Fifty-four of the arrests were for those who advertised as prostitutes online. Twenty-nine of the arrests were those who solicited undercover detectives who posted ads posing as prostitutes.
Thirteen arrests were those who derive support from proceeds of prostitution and seven were taken into custody for drug charges and other offenses.
Three of the suspects arrested, Walter Leiva, Juan Loaisa and Yefri Guevara, are in the country illegally and have all be charged with soliciting a prostitute, according to Sheriff Judd.
Detectives are searching for a traveler suspect who is on the run.
William Welch, 49, reportedly arrived near the location to have sex with a 14-year-old girl.
His vehicle was found in the area, but deputies were unable to locate him.
Welch is facing several charges, including Traveling to meet a minor, Using a 2-way communication device, Using a Computer to Solicit a Child and Attempted Lewd Battery.
Charges for those arrested include soliciting another for prostitution, deriving support from proceeds of prostitution, transporting to building for prostitution and using a communication device to commit a felony.
“We conduct these kinds of investigations because of the link between prostitution, human trafficking, drug crimes, economic crimes such as burglary and fraud, and violent crime.
“We have learned over many years that when we pay attention to public order and quality of life crimes such as prostitution, we can reduce and prevent other crimes while strengthening the community.
“Prostitution is not a victimless crime.
“From the spread of disease, destruction of families, and to the scourge of human trafficking, prostitution is bad for our community.
“In some cases, children and women are forced to prostitute while under the control of pimps.
“We remain committed to fighting human trafficking by arresting those who engage in prostitution and trying to identify human trafficking victims.
“Our goal is to change the lives of those who are feeling trapped in this horrific lifestyle.” – Grady Judd, Sheriff