44 arrested in Polk prostitution sting targeting online ads

By Josh Rojas, Reporter
Last Updated: Monday, August 23, 2010

An undercover sting headed up by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd ended in more than 40 arrests of alleged prostitutes, pimps, and drivers.

Detectives put targeted online ads on the websites Craiglist and Backpage and negotiated with suspects on the Internet or by phone.

They were offered sex acts ranging from oral sex to intercourse in exchange for between $200 and $400.

At a home in an undisclosed location, hidden cameras captured the alleged suspects arriving for what were supposed to be paid transactions.

They came from all over the state, and even from farther distances including Oklahoma, Maryland, Indiana, and North Carolina.

While some accused prostitutes came alone, others had drivers -- one woman even traveled to the destination in a taxi.

Another woman told investigators she was 5-months pregnant.

"She wanted to be careful, the way she had sex, so as not to hurt the child," said Judd. "Isn't it nice to have a caring mother?"

According to Judd, that was one of many disturbing cases he oversaw during the covert operation.

"It's interesting," said Judd. "One pimp showed up with his 9-month old baby… We've heard it called a victimless crime, but that's not true. That 9-month-old baby is a victim. There's a 21-year-old who drove his mother here to have sex. He's a victim."

A third suspect, claiming to be 18 years old, said she planned to stay at a hotel during her time in Florida, because she was originally from Georgia.

None of the suspects were interested in talking to media members as they were taken to jail.

"Our goal is to make sure that those who want to engage in prostitution don't come to this community," said Judd. "When this ends, who knows when the next one will occur? I promise you this -- there will be a next one."

By Saturday, at least 44 arrests have been made -- both male and female.

They face charges from soliciting another for prostitution, deriving proceeds from prostitution, aiding and abetting prostitution, drug possession, disorderly conduct, and violation of probation.