Florida law enforcement arrested 277 people this week in a sex sting operation, with many doctors, cops, pharmacists and even a Marine colonel charged with federal and state crimes, including human trafficking, sex trafficking and solicitation of prostitution.
During the sex sting dubbed Operation No Tricks, No Treats, detectives and investigators coming from many law enforcement agencies posted fake ads on websites, social media sites and smartphone apps posing as prostitutes and sex worker solicitations.
Law enforcement reported that 210 of those who were arrested on sex-related charges were accused of soliciting undercover police officers for sex. According to the Orlando Sentinel, 51 others had advertised themselves as prostitutes online. Officials also stated that 17 others were put under arrest for other sex-related offenses.
One of the men who was arrested was a sergeant at the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and had been there for 17 years. The office stated that it was completely embarrassed and that the officer, Luis Diaz, was no longer employed there. Detectives states that Diaz actually recognized the voice of the undercover officer he was speaking with on the phone. Diaz was quickly placed under arrest in his home. He apologized to Polk County law enforcement for putting them in that uncomfortable position and he resigned immediately.
Law enforcement officials also stated that some suspects who were arrested on sex crime charges were a cancer surgeon, pediatrician, Air Force veteran, deputy sheriff, retired police officer, pharmacists and an active colonel in the Marine Corps. The age ranges for those arrested was 16 to 74. The police involved in the sting added that even though these types of operations get a lot of media attention, there never is a lack of people who get arrested in them. The head of the investigation in Polk County noted that sex sells; it is one of the most powerful things on Earth, and can bring down kingdoms.
Those who have been charged are facing a total of 334 offenses that range from human trafficking to soliciting another person for prostitution. Approximately 298 of these are misdemeanors and 36 are felonies. The Polk County office also noted that 215 people came to the county from other parts of the state and also came from other states including AL, CA, GA, LA, MI, MO, NJ, NY, TX and VA.
Human Trafficking and Online Prostitution The Focus of Investigation
During the law enforcement operation, undercover cops from other Florida towns, including Winter Haven, Bartow, Haines City, Lakeland and Lake Wales conducted an extensive investigation. Detectives posted phony ads and profiles on a variety of social media platforms, cell phone apps and websites either posing as prostitutes or soliciting prostitutes. It is very common for prostitution and human trafficking rings to use social media and websites such as Backpage.com and Craigslist.com to sell sex and human beings.
Marine Colonel Also Placed Under Arrest
One of the many surprise arrestees in this sting operation was a Marine colonel who was on temporary assignment at US Central Command. He was arrested during the operation for trying to solicit sex from an undercover female officer who posed to work as part of a prostitution ring.
Colonel Kevin Scott, 51, was put under arrest and charged with the solicitation of sexual intercourse with a condom for $80. He was later released on $500 bond. Scott works at the US Central Command headquarters at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa.
According to police reports, Scott posted an ad on Backpage.com looking for a prostitute. Police saw the ad and had an undercover officer reply and waited to meet the colonel before putting him under arrest. Scott was driving a car that was leased by the US government when he was arrested.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd stated that he had to call the federal government and tell them to come pick up their leased vehicle because a Marine colonel was on the way to jail. The colonel has since been placed on paid leave as the Marine Corps investigates the charges. The police stated that the colonel told them when he was arrested that he was retired from the military.
Judd also noted at a press conference announcing the arrests that Polk County is strongly committed to fighting prostitution and human trafficking by putting under arrest anyone who tries to solicit sex. He noted that criminals need to stay out of Polk County if they want to commit any type of crime.
Ex-Alabama Cop Also Arrested for Soliciting Sex
Donald Reynolds, 63, also was placed under arrest for soliciting prostitutes. He is an ex-police officer from Birmingham, Alabama. He joined the police force in 1978 and worked there until 1990 before he started to work for an insurance company.