Over six days, Polk County Sheriff’s undercover detectives conducted a special investigation known as “Operation No Tricks No Treats,” with the intent of identifying and helping victims of human trafficking who might be forced into prostitution.
Assisting PCSO in the operation which began on Wednesday, October 20, 2021, were officers from the Auburndale, Haines City, Lake Hamilton, Lake Wales, and Lakeland Police Departments.
The operation utilized internet advertisements to arrange the meetings between undercover detectives and suspects, which took place at an undercover location in Polk County.
“The primary purpose for these operations is to identify victims of human trafficking and those who prey on the victims, as well as the deviant child predators who stalk children online. We work hand-in-hand with organizations to get help for the victims of human trafficking. We identified three possible victims during this investigation.” –Grady Judd, Sheriff.
There were three people who came to the undercover location to commit prostitution, but may be victims of human trafficking, one of whom is a juvenile. Detectives worked with Selah Freedom, One More Child, Heartland for Children, and Children’s Home Society Child Advocacy Center for assistance and support.
Each person who was arrested for prostitution was given immediate access to the members of the anti-trafficking organizations and offered assistance.
Two men were arrested for soliciting who they thought were children online. One of those suspects travelled to the location to meet the “child,” and the other suspect was arrested in Orange County where he works, on a Polk County Warrant.
There were 38 people arrested for offering to commit prostitution, which is a second degree misdemeanor, and four of those suspects have prior arrests for prostitution; of the 38 arrests, two are possible adult victims of human trafficking – a third juvenile victim was not arrested. 62 were arrested who were soliciting a prostitute, which is a first degree misdemeanor, and five of those were previously arrested for the same.
Some interesting notes from the operation:
· 11 of those arrested told detectives that they are married.
· Detectives charged those arrested with a total of 29 felonies and 143 misdemeanors.
· Criminal histories of everyone arrested included 275 previous felonies and 429 previous misdemeanors. Some of the prior histories include charges for kidnapping, robbery, aggravated battery, and sex offenses.
· 4 of the arrested were from other states (Mississippi, South Carolina, and Texas).
· 55 suspects live in Polk County.
· 14 suspects told detectives they receive government assistance.
· Detectives seized cocaine, heroin, methamphetamine, MDMA (Ecstasy), and marijuana, from those arrested during the operation.
· One of the suspects is in the country illegally, and two of the possible trafficking victims are here illegally.
· The oldest person arrested is 78 years old, while the youngest is 19 years old.
Donald Spencer, 64, of Mulberry – Spencer posted an ad online that stated in part “I want someone I can make love with, not to. Sure, we may hit some roadblocks in our journey but if we respect and truly care for each other then we can overcome any and all obstacles.” He thought he was chatting online with a 14-year-old girl and after repeatedly asking her what she wanted to do with him, said, “That’s why I’m a little weird right now I figured if you brought up the sex then it wouldn’t be a set up. You know like I’m talking of police sting operation. I would never hurt you or do anything you didn’t want to do. But I truly would like to have the chance to love you oh, to be with you and show you how much I really do care and yes I would love to make love to you.” And: “So you’re telling me that you are real that you want to be in a relationship with me and that this is in no part a police sting. I certainly don’t want to be arrested for falling in love with someone.” Upon his arrest, he told detectives that he had made a “bad decision.” He was charged with Traveling to meet a minor after use of a computer to seduce a child (F2), and Attempted lewd battery (F3).
Theodore Ryan Jones, 27, of Satellite Beach – Jones believed he was communicating online with a 14-year-old girl. He was sending her messages, including explicit nude photos of himself. He discussed in great detail what he would like to do to the girl, including taking her virginity. Jones works as a cook in Disney Springs, and was taken into custody there on the Polk County warrant. He was charged with Use of a computer to seduce a child (F3), 2 counts Transmission of material harmful to a minor (F3), and Use of a two-way communication device to commit a felony (F3).