During a week-long undercover human trafficking operation in Polk County, Florida, the sheriff's office arrested a total of 219 suspects, which included three Disney employees, a high school teacher and an athletic director.
In a press release, the Polk County Sherriff's Office said, "There were 83 suspects arrested for soliciting a prostitute and traveling to the undercover location to negotiate having sex in exchange for money."
"17 other suspects were arrested, and of those, 5 were either deriving proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitutes, and 8 drove the prostitutes to the undercover location," the statement said.
The report noted that police also identified 21 possible human trafficking victims among the 119 prostitutes they had arrested. Two people were charged with human trafficking.
Sheriff Grady Judd said, "Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, we identified 21 human trafficking victims; during a similar operation in February, we identified 24 victims. That’s 45 victims we were able to identify this year. 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.”
In a press conference, Judd revealed the two people his office arrested for felony human trafficking as Maria Guzman and Freddy Escalona, who were in the US illegally.
Speaking about Guzman, Judd said, "You always think of the guys being human traffickers, but she is the one facing a felony charge which is 30 years in prison." He added, "She’s the one that was setting the appointments. She’s the one that was prostituting two young ladies. She was taking 60-70 percent of their money."
Judd added that Guzman forced a woman into prostitution and took 60-70 percent of her income after she could not pay back money he had loaned her.
One teacher who was caught in the operation was Russell Rogers, who was the athletic director at Vanguard School and had worked as a teacher at Auburndale High School REAL Academy since 2017.
In a statement to Fox13, Polk County Schools responded to the arrest, it said, "We’re disappointed to learn that one of our employees was engaging in this kind of behavior." It continued, "Part of being an educator is understanding that you are held to a higher standard for your actions in the classroom, as well as the community. These charges don’t involve students, and Rogers was not on duty as a teacher, but this kind of conduct still has no place in our school system."
Overall there were a total of 44 felony charges and 242 misdemeanors stemming from the investigation. 34 of the 219 suspects were in the US illegally, coming from six different countries.
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