Florida authorities have announced a victorious human trafficking operation, resulting in a record-breaking 219 arrests, including illegal aliens, a high school teacher, and three Disney employees. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd disclosed the operation’s results that identified 21 possible victims of human trafficking out of the 119 individuals arrested for prostitution-related offenses. Freddy Escalona, aged 30, and Maria Guzman, 36, were among the two suspects charged with human trafficking and deriving proceeds from prostitution.
Escalona is accused of coercing a victim into prostitution after lending her money for vehicle repairs and then demanding repayment. He admitted to having multiple females under his control, transporting them and profiting from their activities. Others are also being charged with soliciting prostitution, transporting prostitutes to the undercover location, and offenses related to prostitution.
Sheriff Judd emphasized that social services organizations’ collaborations played a crucial role in providing assistance and emancipation opportunities for these women. “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 these organizations make it possible for these women to get help and be emancipated from this way of life.”
Of the arrested individuals, 35 were suspected to be in the country illegally, hailing from countries including Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, or the Bahamas. Furthermore, several admitted to being married, receiving government assistance, possessed or used illegal drugs, owned firearms, and came from out of state.
Sheriff Grady Judd is live on our Facebook page with law enforcement partners who assisted in arresting 219 suspects, giving details about Operation Traffic Stop 2: https://t.co/w18WXs1f0V
— Polk County Sheriff 🚔 Grady Judd (@PolkCoSheriff) September 28, 2023
The operation’s age range of those arrested was wide, spanning from 76-year-old Frank Bydairk to 18-year-old Latrice Vilsaint. Shockingly, one man even left his 1-year-old daughter home alone while he engaged in unlawful activities, justifying it by claiming that “the dog was watching her.”
Russell Rogers, an athletic director at Vanguard School and a teacher at Auburndale High School REAL Academy, was also apprehended. He is married with three children, and Polk County Public Schools is moving forward with the process of terminating his employment due to his involvement in the operation.
Three of the suspects were Disney employees, while another worked at a Disney hotel. Sheriff Judd was shocked at one individual who watched police activity and observed a man and woman entering a room, and then entered the room himself when they did not emerge, thinking it was his turn.
The operation received support from various law enforcement agencies, including the Lake County Sheriff’s Office and several local police departments, along with the Florida Department of Children and Families and social services organizations such as One More Child.