POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WFLA) – – A week-long undercover sting targeting human trafficking and online prostitution in Polk County ended with 277 arrests that included doctors, pharmacists and law enforcement officers.
“That’s the most we have ever arrested in the history of the sheriff’s office,” Sheriff Grady Judd said.
“Operation No Tricks, No Treats” started last Tuesday, October 10 and ran through Monday, October 16. During that time, undercover detectives posted fake ads or profiles online posing as prostitutes or someone who solicits prostitutes. Other detectives responded to profiles and ads posted by prostitutes.
According to the sheriff’s office, 51 of the arrests were related to those who advertise as prostitutes online and 209 of the arrests were those who solicited undercover detectives posing as prostitutes. Seventeen arrests were made for other offenses.
Sheriff Judd identified some of the suspects arrested in the undercover operation as doctors and pharmacists, former and current law enforcement officers, a lawyer, two men who traveled to have sex with minors and two sex offenders.
These are some of the men arrested that the sheriff identified:
- Cancer surgeon at Tampa General Hospital
- Pediatrician at Health Care Alliance in Wesley Chapel
- Resident at Lakeland Regional Health
- Teacher from Lake Academy
- Active Colonel in the US Marine Corps
- Air Force veteran
- Retired Broward County deputy sheriff
- Retired police officer from Birmingham, Alabama
The sheriff’s office even caught one of their own. Former Sergeant Luis Diaz resigned from the force after 17 years.
“We are absolutely embarrassed,” Sheriff Judd said. “We hold our own accountable. He messed up and no longer works for the Sherriff’s Office.”
Investigators say 215 suspects drove to Polk County from locations throughout Florida. Some were in the state visiting from Alabama, California, Delaware, Georgia, Louisiana, Michigan, Missouri, New Jersey, New York, North Carolina, Oregon, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
“Welcome to Polk County,” Judd said to them during his news conference.
Polk County detectives worked with detectives and investigators from Haines City police, Lakeland police, Lakes Wales police and Winter Haven police.
“We are committed to fighting human trafficking by arresting those who engage in prostitution and trying to identify human trafficking victims,” Sheriff Judd said in an earlier news release. “It’s no secret…you need to stay out of Polk County if you’re going to commit crime.”