During a week-long, multi-agency undercover investigation dubbed “Operation Traffic Stop,” over 200 individuals were arrested on human trafficking-related charges, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd announced on Thursday.
The 213 suspects apprehended included individuals who offered to commit prostitution, solicited prostitutes, and others who aided or profited from the act of prostitution.
The investigation involved the screening of individuals who traveled to provide “prostitution services” to determine if they were being exploited or trafficked, with detectives and social services organizations like Selah Freedom and Heartland for Children providing services to those who needed it.
“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 Sheriff 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.”
Of the 111 sex workers arrested, 24 were identified as possible human trafficking victims, with 14 of them being migrants from Cuba and Mexico. Some of the victims claimed that they were forced into prostitution to pay off debts owed to those who smuggled them into the country, with their families being threatened if they refused.
Those who were arrested were charged with a combined 68 felonies and 308 misdemeanors.
Among those arrested:
• 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).