POLK COUNTY, Florida – 124 people ranging in age from 19 to 70-years-old were arrested by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit during a six-day special investigation known as “Operation Santa’s Naughty List” with the intent of identifying and helping victims of human trafficking.
Of the 124 suspects, 53 were arrested for offering to commit prostitution, 46 were arrested who were seeking the services of a prostitute, 7 were arrested for seducing or traveling to sexually batter a child, and 18 were arrested on other charges.
“The primary purpose for these operations is to identify victims of human trafficking and those who prey on the victims, as well as the deviant child predators who stalk children online,” said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.
The operation used internet advertisements to arrange the meetings between undercover detectives and suspects, which took place at an undercover location in Polk County.
There were seven women who came to the undercover location to commit prostitution but may be victims of human trafficking, said Grady.
Two of those women were taken to shelters and introduced to anti-trafficking organizations for assistance and support.
Each person who was arrested for prostitution was given immediate access to the members of the anti-trafficking organizations and offered assistance.
Thirty of those arrested told detectives that they were married. One man said he was engaged to be married.
Only 30 of the suspects were from Polk County. Seven of the arrested were from other states (Hartsfield, SC; Williamsburg, MO; Conyers, GA; Victoria, TX; Easton, PA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA) and one person was visiting from Ontario, Canada.