A Polk County, Florida, human trafficking operation earlier this month led to the arrests of 219 people, including people in the country illegally, a high school teacher, and three Disney employees, according to authorities.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd on Thursday announced the results of the operation, saying out of 119 prostitutes who were arrested during the operation that began last week, 21 were possible victims of human trafficking. Two suspects were charged with human trafficking, and both were in the U.S. illegally.
According to Fox News, Freddy Escalona, 30, and Maria Guzman, 36, were charged with human trafficking and deriving proceeds from prostitution. Escalona, police said, lent money to a victim to fix her vehicle, and after she was unable to pay him back, he allegedly forced her into prostitution.
When Escalona drove the victim to the undercover location, he was taken into custody and told detectives he had “several females that he worked,” or who paid him to transport them and keep them safe, Judd said. Guzman also allegedly trafficked two victims from a hotel in Orlando, setting up their “dates” and profiting from the money they made.
Judd’s office said 83 suspects were arrested for soliciting prostitution; 17 other suspects were arrested, and of those, five either derived proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitutes, and eight drove the prostitutes to the undercover location. Investigators charged a total of 44 felonies and 242 misdemeanors during the operation.
“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,” Judd said.
“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.”