POLK COUNTY, FLORIDA—On September 28. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced that they have dismantled a sex trafficking ring out of Polk County, Florida that included the arrest of over 200 suspects from all over the U.S., including California.
According to Judd, the seven-day operation that began on September 19, resulted in the arrest of 219 suspects. In addition, 21 possible victims of sex trafficking have been identified, 119 prostitutes were taken into custody, and two suspects were charged with human trafficking, which Judd referred to as, “A life felony.”
Some of the suspects arrested for human trafficking were Freddy Escolona of Chicago, Illinois, and Maria Guzman of Orlando, Florida, who according to Judd were working out of an Orlando area hotel, selling “dates” with the victims for profit.
Sheriff Judd credited the following police departments and agencies who worked diligently assisting the Polk County Sheriff’s Department in the arrest of the perpetrators and dismantling of the human sex trafficking ring.
“Detectives from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Auburndale PD, Bartow PD, Davenport PD, Lakeland PD, Lake Hamilton PD, Lake Wales PD, Winter Haven PD, and Zephyrhills PD, assisted with the investigation. The Office of the State Attorney 10th Judicial Circuit, State Attorney Brian Haas, members from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), and social services organizations One More Child, Heartland for Children, My Name My Voice, Selah Freedom, and the Children’s Home Society Child Advocacy Center, were also on-hand.”
Judd went on to say, “Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, but we also 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.”
Sheriff Judge told WFLA News Channel 8 that, “This the single largest operation of its kind in the history of the sheriff’s office.
In the September 29 press release, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department’s list the following “Interesting Notes from the Operation.”
“35 of the arrested are suspected of being in the country illegally and three of those were identified as victims of human trafficking. Those who are here illegally are from six different countries: Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and the Bahamas.
41 suspects told detectives they are married.
13 suspects told detectives they received government assistance.
42 suspects brought illegal drugs to the location. Detectives seized fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana.
2 of the suspects brought firearms to the undercover location.
8 suspects were from other states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
The oldest person arrested is 76 years old (Frank Bydairk), while the youngest is 18 years old (Latrice Vilsaint).”