Lakeland, FL – Detectives have arrested 36 women and 24 men, including a Disney worker and a teenager who towed her baby along, for soliciting another for prostitution, deriving proceeds from prostitution, or aiding and abetting prostitution. Detectives captured everything from the Central Florida bust dubbed “Operation Curtain Call” on film, from the accused prostitutes stripping to their arrests.
Detectives targeted online escort services promoting prostitution. According to the Polk County Sherriff’s Office, these online sites provide the means for prostitution to occur. Detectives were involved for a one-week investigation where officers posed undercover, surfed Internet websites and solicited escort services for anywhere between $50 to $700 each time.
According to WFTV, only one person arrested was from Polk County. The others came from Central Florida or out of state. The Polk County Sherriff’s Office said some came alone in taxis, some car-pooled and some even let their children tag along and arrived with condoms and even STDs. Detectives allegedly arrested people from all walks of life including a 15-year-old prostitute with her infant child, a five months pregnant woman, a school bus driver, pimps, gang members and a transgender male.
Police said they supposedly witnessed a 15-year-old mother show up to the house where the sting was taking place with her 2-month-old baby and gang-affiliated boyfriend. They supposedly waited in the car while the teen allegedly turned tricks inside. The baby was taken into custody by the Department of Children and Families.
Detectives said the suspects came from Michigan to Miami to visit the undercover sex sting operation. The last time the Sherriff’s office conducted a bust like this Craigslist ended up shutting down the escort service portion on its web site.
Prostitution busts like these are conducted all the time in Florida due to the many escort services that advertise all over the Internet. However, there is a fine line between legal behavior, such as stripping and dancing, and illegal prostitution. In these types of stings, police visit these sites trying to target all kinds of activities that can lead to an arrest for prostitution or a related offense. In most instances there will be a meeting setup at a hotel or house where every bit of the encounter will be video recorded. When there is enough evidence of prostitution an arrest will be made. This means the prostitute and anyone who tagged along to the location will be taken into police custody.
The crime of prostitution is pretty straightforward, but a person can be charged with aiding and abetting prostitution if they transport someone to a scene knowing illegal behavior will transpire. The state must prove that the driver knew the person they were driving was going to be dropped off for prostitution. Any money exchanged between the driver and the suspected prostitute can only strengthen the charge. A person convicted of prostitution or a related prostitution offense for the first time could face a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail. A third conviction or more is a felony carrying a maximum sentence of five years in prison. If any offense brought against you involves a minor, the prostitution crime is punishable by up to 15 years in prison.
If you or someone you know has been arrested on prostitution-related charges, contact the Florida Criminal Defense Attorneys at the Law Offices of Whittel & Melton, LLC online or call 1-866-608-5LAW (5529).