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“Operation Traffic Stop” - Okeechobee County Detectives Join Other Agencies in Undercover Human Trafficking Investigation

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Okeechobee County - Monday February 20, 2023: Okeechobee County Detectives joined with the Polk County Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies in an undercover human trafficking investigation dubbed "Operation Traffic Stop".

The investigation resulted in 213 arrests recorded by the Polk County Sheriff's Office Vice Unit. In addition to the Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office, the Polk County Sheriff was assisted by the following law enforcement agencies: Auburndale PD, Winter Haven PD, Haines City PD, Lake Wales PD, Lakeland PD, Davenport PD, and Bartow PD, as well as the Florida Department of Law Enforcement

Additional assistance was provided by the Office of the State Attorney 10th Judicial Circuit, State Attorney Brian Haas, members from the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF), and social services organizations One More Child; Heartland for Children; My Name My Voice; Selah Freedom; and the Children’s Home Society Child Advocacy Center, were also on-hand.

Those found to be travelling to provide prostitution services were screened by detectives and the social services organizations to determine if they were being trafficked or exploited by others. They were then offered services by the social services organizations at the operation.

The seven-day operation began on Monday, February 6

During this investigation, 24 possible human trafficking victims were identified of the 111 prostitutes who were arrested. 89 of the suspects were arrested for soliciting a prostitute and traveling to the undercover location to negotiate having sex in exchange for money. 13 other suspects were arrested, and of those, 10 were either deriving proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitutes.

“Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, we identified 24 human trafficking victims – the highest number of victims we’ve ever rescued during one of these investigations," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd. "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.”

Operation highlights:

• Five suspects were previously arrested by PCSO during a similar undercover operation, and two of those were just arrested during the September 2022 “Operation Fall Haul II.”
• 14 of the arrested are suspected of being in the country illegally (13 from Cuba and one from Mexico), and six of the 14 were identified as victims of human trafficking.
• 35 suspects told detectives they are married.
• Detectives charged those arrested with a total of 68 felonies and 308 misdemeanors.
• Several of the suspects have criminal histories, including violent felonies such as kidnapping, robbery, aggravated assault, and sex offenses.
• 22 suspects told detectives they receive government assistance.
• Detectives seized fentanyl, cocaine, methamphetamine, and marijuana, from those arrested during the operation.
• Two of the suspects brought firearms to the undercover location – Rydreka Harris and Horace Levatte.
• The oldest person arrested is 68 years old (Dellbert Dinsmore), while the youngest is 19 years old (Jamal Spike).