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Operation Naughty Not Nice nets 95 in Polk County

The 5-day prostitution sting nets a long list of arrests including repeat offenders.
Nearly 100 people face charges stemming from a 5-day prostitution sting in Polk County.

Lakeland, FL -- Nearly 100 people face charges stemming from a 5-day prostitution sting in Polk County.

Polk County Sheriff's deputies and detectives with the Lakeland Police Department are now coming through those cases to see if any of them may be linked to human trafficking.

No matter how many prostitution stings officials carry out, there is seemingly no shortage of arrests.

But on Monday, Sheriff Grady Judd said the effort is working.

In about half the cases where they spoke with would-be prostitutes, offering them to come to Polk County, they were told, "No way,'  said the sheriff.

The reason cited? Too high of a chance that they would be arrested.

Officials, given the time of year, dubbed the sting "Operation Naughty Not Nice."

The effort, they say, took place at a Lakeland hotel.

The suspects ranged in age from as old as 68, to as young as just 15.

Half of those arrested had previous arrest records with 205 previous felony charges, and 399 misdemeanors between them.

"There were 50 prostitutes that were arrested, 33 Johns," said Judd.

Another 12 people were arrested on other charges for "driving,"  said Judd. Many of them, were suspected to be pimps.

In keeping with the holiday-themed crack down, investigators reviewed, then publicly shamed many of those who were arrested.

The list, at times sounded like "The 12 days of Christmas."

Well over four calling girls, one French maid, two sets of twins, and a math teacher from George Jenkins High School.

"Congratulations," said Judd, "Merry Christmas."

Others arrested included a woman who allegedly went inside to turn a trick, while leaving her 2-year-old child in the car with her significant other.

"At least mother of the month, and she may be eligible for mother of the year," said Judd.

Another woman from New York allegedly told police she wanted $1,200 for her services.

And then there was Maurice Laws, who'd been arrested last year at the same hotel for the same thing, said Judd.

"There's a saying you can't fix stupid," said the sheriff. "Maurice Laws is stupid."

Twenty-five of those booked, the sheriff said, are on public assistance.

Many of them, said Lakeland Police Chief Larry Giddens, are married.

"It is not a victimless crime if one of the prostitutes admits to us during questioning that she has had an active case of hepatitis, that she is infected with hepatitis, and that she is not letting any of her potential customers know that," said Giddens.

Investigators say they are always looking at any possible connections between the prostitution busts and human trafficking.

In this case, they say they have identified at least three on women who they believe may have been forced into prostitution against their will.

For a look at the list of who was arrested click here.


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