Five human trafficking victims identified in prostitution sting

Nearly 300 people were arrested in a week-long prostitution sting by the Polk County Sheriff's Office, including a sergeant with the department.

POLK COUNTY, Fla. (WTSP) -- Nearly 300 people arrested in a week-long undercover prostitution sting. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd called it "Operation No Tricks, No Treat."

Judd said the 277 people arrested thought they were offering or soliciting sex online. They were really part of the biggest undercover bust in Polk County Sheriff's Office history.

“Welcome to Polk County, Florida,” Judd said at a press conference Tuesday.

Most of the people arrested are from outside Polk. Many of them have families.

“Did you hear me? Married four days when he YouTubed ‘how to find an escort,’” Judd said about one of the men arrested. “Well, it worked for him. Kinda.”

They're doctors, lawyers, teachers and even law enforcement.

“I'm embarrassed to tell you about this next one, because we caught one of our own sergeants from the sheriff's office, Luis Diaz,” Judd explained.

Judd said getting suspects off the street is important, but just as important is identifying and getting help for victims of human trafficking. That's where The Porch Light in Lakeland comes in. The organization works with law enforcement and helps victims of human trafficking.

“This is happening right here where we live,” Jodi Bennett, a regional advocate, said.

The Porch Light helped identify five people being trafficked in this operation.

“That's going to be a very powerful time to intercede in their life at that point, and to be able to offer them the services they need to be restored and in a place of healing,” Bennett explained.

Advocates for human trafficking victims said they're usually shy and might not make eye contact. If you suspect trafficking in your area, The Porch Light encourages you to call 407-799-8719 to report it.

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