Breaking News
More () »

Ex-Hillsborough County teacher among 125 men arrested during anti-human trafficking operation

Sheriff Chad Chronister says four women and one teenager were rescued from human trafficking during the operation.

HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. — Sheriff Chad Chronister says the details are "too vile to fathom" when it comes to the results of a 20-day anti-human trafficking operation. 

On Monday, Chronister said 125 men were arrested during "Operation Round-Up." Four women and a teenager also were rescued. 

All five were taken to Selah Freedom for help.

Chronister said one man arrested was Joel Velasco, who he said was a Hillsborough County teacher. According to the sheriff, Velasco offered to pay an undercover detective $60 for sex. 

According to Hillsborough County Schools, Velasco was hired in 2015. 

"He was never in front of students this year as this arrest occurred prior to the start of the school year. He resigned and is not a teacher in our district," the district said in a statement. "We are shocked and deeply troubled by the allegations."

Another man the sheriff spoke about was Philip Velikettel. He reportedly traveled to meet a 14-year-old girl, but was arrested instead, Chronister said

Muntasir Shafiq was another man Chronister mentioned by name during the news conference. Chronister said the Lutz man thought he was communicating with a 14-year-old boy but was instead speaking with an undercover detective. "His texts were too vile to fathom," Chronister said. 

Chronister said this operation was the first completed by the sheriff's office's full-time human trafficking task force. 

"Because of the unfortunate success of this operation and others alike, HCSO has created a Human Trafficking Squad. This team of 12 dedicated members will uphold the commitment to ending human trafficking in Hillsborough County by reducing the demand, and rescuing victims," the sheriff's office said.

You can watch the full news conference here:

To learn about the signs of human trafficking and how you can help, visit dontbuyittampabay.org.

If you believe you are victimized by Human Trafficking or suspect an adult is being victimized by human trafficking, please visit the National Human Trafficking Hotline, or call them at 1-888-3737-888. If you suspect a child is being victimized, please call the Florida Abuse Hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.

Before You Leave, Check This Out