Hillsborough County Human Trafficking Sting Results in More Than 100 Prostitution Arrests
A 5-month long Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office undercover investigation on human trafficking has resulted in more than 100 arrests for prostitution.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said the investigation focused on eradicating human trafficking in the county.
Throughout the course of the operation, which ran from June through the start of November, 104 people were arrested in connection with prostitution by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office Special Investigations Division.
The investigation is part of an attempt to close trafficking ahead of big events like the Super Bowl, Wrestlemania and NCAA basketball regions.
During the investigation, several male and female detectives posed as johns and prostitutes. The sheriff said 76 of the people arrested were men trying to buy sex with women and underage girls.
One of the men arrested, a 29-year-old, is a suspected Latin Kings gang member and is accused of trafficking women out of a local motel.
Federal Laws for Human Trafficking
The Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (TVPA) defines “severe forms of human trafficking” as: The recruitment, harboring, transportation, provision, or obtaining of a person for
- sex trafficking in which a commercial sex act is induced by force, fraud, or coercion, or in which the person induced to perform such act has not attained 18 years of age; or
- labor or services, through the use of force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of subjection to involuntary servitude, peonage, debt bondage, or slavery
Florida law defines human trafficking as a form of modern-day slavery. Victims of human trafficking can be young children, teenagers, and adults. Every year thousands of victims are trafficked across international borders worldwide, and many of these victims are trafficked into the state of Florida. Victims of human trafficking can also include citizens of the United States and those persons trafficked domestically within the borders of the United States. The Legislature finds that victims of human trafficking are subjected to force, fraud, or coercion for the purpose of sexual exploitation or forced labor.
Human trafficking is a serious problem, and according to the International Labour Organization, an estimated 21 million people subjected to forced labor worldwide. It is equally true that most human trafficking constitutes sex trafficking, where people are forced into work as sexual slaves.
With that said, it is not necessarily true that everyone charged with human trafficking is guilty of this crime, or even aware of the crime. This is why human trafficking defense lawyers are needed to help keep unjust charges from being filed. Our Florida Human Trafficking Defense Attorneys at Whittel & Melton are here to help those who have been arrested for this crime fihght back. Unjust human trafficking charges can ruin the life or career of someone not directly involved in the trafficking ring, even if they aren’t convicted. Sex crimes charges of any kind, including human trafficking, have the stigma to follow a person throughout the duration of their life, even if the charge is dropped or the person is acquitted.
The burden of proof in human trafficking cases is high. The prosecution must prove that the person charged with the crime was aware of the trafficking and had an intent to keep it going. Sadly, the charge of human trafficking alone can do immense damage to a person’s reputation, even if human trafficking is never actually proven in court.
If the accused is convicted, the penalties can be steep. In Florida, human trafficking is a felony offense and a judge is required to impose a minimum sentence of approximately 66 months in prison and can also impose any combination of the following penalties:
- Up to Life in prison
- Up to Life on probation
- Up to $10,000 in fines
Numerous different people can be find themselves facing human trafficking charges, since the crime involves so many contributors. They include:
- Arrangers of travel
- Funding sponsors
- Bogus sponsors or companions of underage victims
- Solicitors of services provided by victims
- Marketers of services provided by victims
- Aiding and abetting the participants
- Child pornography distributors or producers
Some people that do not even realize what human trafficking is can inadvertently fall into the above categories. That is why if you have been charged unjustly with a human trafficking crime, you must get legal help right away. These are quite serious charges and must be dealt with accordingly. You need our Florida Human Trafficking Defense Lawyers at Whittel & Melton to help you convey your side of the story and work to get these charges reduced or dismissed entirely, if possible. We urge you to contact us as soon as you have been arrested, or as soon as you think you are a target of an investigation.