After a week-long undercover human trafficking operation in Polk County, Florida, about 219 suspects have been arrested.
Three were Disney employees, a high school teacher, and an athletic director.
The Sheriff’s Office said that 21 people are possible victims of human trafficking, and many of the arrests seemed to revolve around a prostitution ring. A suspect named Maria Guzman faces 30 years in prison for prostituting two young women and taking “60-70 percent of their money.”
“You always think of the guys being human traffickers, but she is the one facing a felony charge which is 30 years in prison. She’s the one that was setting the appointments. She’s the one that was prostituting two young ladies. She was taking 60-70 percent of their money,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said.
After learning one of their teachers had been arrested, Polk County schools said, “We’re disappointed to learn that one of our employees was engaging in this kind of behavior. Part of being an educator is understanding that you are held to a higher standard for your actions in the classroom, as well as the community. These charges don’t involve students, and Rogers was not on duty as a teacher, but this kind of conduct still has no place in our school system.”
There were 44 felony charges and 242 misdemeanors; 34 of the 219 suspects are in the US illegally, coming from six different countries: Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and the Bahamas. Eighteen suspects are from Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin.
“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. That’s 45 victims we were able to identify this year. The valuable relationships that we have with the social services organizations who join us in these operations make it possible for these women to get help and be emancipated from this way of life.” Judd said.
Disney has not commented on the arrests.