TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — More than 100 people were arrested following a six-day human trafficking operation out of Polk County, Sheriff Grady Judd announced Thursday.
The sting, “Operation No Tricks, No Treats” targeted child predators, prostitutes and those who solicit them. Deputies were able to rescue a 17-year-old girl and two women in their 20s who were believed to be victims of human trafficking.
Thirty-nine people were arrested for prostitution while 61 others were accused of soliciting prostitutes.
Judd said they also arrested two child predators in the sting.
Donald Spencer, 64, of Mulberry posted an online add seeking “someone I can make love with, not to.” He began chatting with an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl, then traveled to an undisclosed location, thinking he was going to have sex with her, Judd said.
“He told her online that he was going to teach her, and monitor her and help her grow into this world of sex,” Judd said.
Judd said Spencer told deputies he suspected it was a set up, but he “had to sacrifice himself in case it wasn’t.”
“That’s how strong the desire is to have sex with children,” Judd said. “He was prowling social media sites looking for a child to attack.”
Spencer was arrested and charged with traveling to meet a minor after use of a computer to seduce a child and attempted lewd battery.
Judd said Theodore Ryan Jones, a chef in Disney Springs, had communicated with an undercover detective posing as a 13-year-old girl. Judd said Jones wanted the girl to cuddle with him and his stuffed Pikachu, and have sex with him in his car.
“We had to rescue Pikachu from that nasty environment,” Judd said. “He was seeking children on social media sites. He was transmitting nude photographs of himself to what he believed to be a 13-year-old child. He said very nasty things to this 13-year-old child to go along with the very ugly, vile, nude photographs that he sent.”
Jones, 27, of Satellite Beach, was arrested and charged with use of a computer to seduce a child, transmission of material harmful to a minor, and use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony.
Some of the people accused of offering to commit prostitution are likely victims of human trafficking, Judd said.
If a defendant is determined to be a victim of human trafficking and cooperates with law enforcement, state law requires the record of their arrest to be wiped clean, according to the sheriff.
Taking the first step can be the hardest part, experts say.
“Some things might be you have to turn yourself in for something if there’s a warrant out for your arrest. Some things might be you don’t have housing and so the trafficker controls everything and you need help finding housing. We can all help with that,” said Dr. Marianne Thomas from One More Child.