According to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office, 83 suspects were arrested for soliciting a prostitute and traveling to the undercover location to negotiate having sex in exchange for money; 17 other suspects were arrested, and of those, five were either deriving proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitutes, and eight drove the prostitutes to the undercover location.
According to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd, 21 possible human trafficking victims were identified of the 119 prostitutes arrested in the week-long operation.
Sheriff Judd added that two suspects, Maria Guzman and Freddy Escalona, who he said were both in the country illegally, were charged with felony human trafficking.
"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."
Sheriff Judd said she met the victims online claiming she was looking for people to work in construction.
"They were going to construct sexual encounters," Sheriff Judd said.
The second human trafficker, Freddy Escalona, the sheriff’s office charged is also in the country illegally, according to Sheriff Judd.
"He’s come here illegally to victimize people in the United States," Sheriff Judd stated.
Sheriff Judd said he lent a woman money and when she couldn’t pay him back, he forced her into prostitution and kept 60-70 percent of the money she made.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd along with a mugshot of Maria Guzman.
Sheriff Judd went on to state that two women who were friends went to Polk County for sex and brought a 14-month-old child with them. The child was turned over immediately to DCF, who placed the toddler with a family member.
Another man, according to Sheriff Judd, left his one-year-old daughter at home alone while he went to Polk County to have sex. The sheriff added that the man told deputies he didn’t leave the child home alone because the dog was watching her.
The child was also turned over to DCF and deputies said they made sure the dog had food and water.
According to Sheriff Judd, Russell Rogers of Winter Haven, was also arrested. Sheriff Judd said he is an athletic director at Vanguard School and is also a teacher at Auburndale High School REAL Academy. Sheriff Judd says he is married with three children. According to PCSO, he was a head coach at several different locations.
"This dude now is coaching in the county jail. I can’t believe we want somebody like this around our children," Sheriff Judd shared.
Following Rogers arrest, Polk County Schools stated, "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."
The school district added., Russell Rogers was first hired by PCPS in April 2013. He has worked for Real Academy since 2017 and currently serves at the Auburndale campus, earning $55,411 per year. PCPS said it is moving forward with the process of terminating Rogers’ employment with our school district.
Another man who was arrested, according to PCSO, is the CFO of a California retirement center who told deputies, "It’s not illegal to cheat on your wife."
Sheriff Judd said deputies reminded him that in the state of Florida, it is illegal to pay prostitutes for sex.
According to PCSO, three suspects arrested were Disney employees. Sheriff Judd added that another man arrested worked for a Disney hotel.
"This guy has marshmallows for brains," Sheriff Judd said of a man who saw the police and watched a man and a woman enter the room and not come out, went inside when he thought it was his turn.
Detectives charged a total of 44 felonies and 242 misdemeanors during the investigation.
By The Numbers:
- 35 of the arrested are suspected of being in the country illegally and three of those were identified as victims of human trafficking. Those who are here illegally are from six different countries: Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia, and the Bahamas.
- 41 suspects told detectives they are married
- 13 suspects told detectives they receive government assistance
- 42 suspects brought illegal drugs to the location: detectives seized fentanyl, heroin, cocaine, crack cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana
- 2 suspects brought firearms to the undercover location
- 18 suspects were from other states: Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin
- The oldest person arrested is 76 years old (Frank Bydairk), while the youngest is 18 years old (Latrice Vilsaint)