'Operation March Sadness': Polk County prostitution sting nets 100-plus arrests

By Dalia Dangerfield, Reporter
Last Updated: Tuesday, March 21, 2017, 1:21 PM EDT

A six-day undercover prostitution investigation has resulted in the arrest of more than 100 people in Polk County.  

"Operation March Sadness" focused on those who advertise prostitution services in online ads and identifying victims of human trafficking. The sting was conducted by undercover sheriff's detectives with help from the state attorneys office. 

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said several suspects chatted with undercover deputies online. The suspects then showed up at agrred upon location for sex. Judd said among those arrested were an architect, a medical student and a US Air Force captain. One man showed up thinking he was meeting a 14-year-old girl for sex, Judd said. 

"So what you're seeing here is not a star basketball team," Judd said during a news conference Tuesday. "These are a lot of losers. Losers in the sense they were trying to take advantage of people and the law. 

"And they have all fouled out."

Of the 104 suspects arrested:

  • 38 were prostitutes
  • 51 were "johns," or those who solicited to pay for prostitution 
  • 14 others were arrested for related charges, such as deriving proceeds from prostitution
  • 1 was arrested for traveling to meet a minor
  • 23 told detectives they were married
  • Detectives seized 2 firearms, and drugs including marijuana, Oxycodone, heroin, and cocaine
  • Many of the prostitutes traveled to Florida, and told detectives they travel across the country, having sex for money
  • The suspects ranged in age from 20 - 63 years old

In all, detectives filed 37 felony charges and 128 misdemeanor charges against the 104 suspects.

Among the 104 suspects, there were a total of 191 previous felonies and 288 previous misdemeanor charges in their criminal histories.