Three Disney employees, a school athletic director and a father who left his 1-year-old home alone to have sex were among 219 people arrested in a major human trafficking bust in Florida, authorities said Thursday.
The seven-day undercover operation earlier this month led to 44 felonies and 242 misdemeanor charges against the dozens of suspects — 35 of whom are suspected of being in the country illegally, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said during a news conference.
Overall, 83 suspects were charged for soliciting prostitution or traveling to the undercover location to negotiate having sex in exchange for money, the sheriff said.
Freddy Escalona, 30, and Maria Guzman 36, were charged most severely with human trafficking due to “Operation Traffic Stop 2” that started Sept. 19.
Another 17 suspects were accused of collecting money from prostitution or helping prostitutes conduct business.
Caught up in the sting were three Disney workers, including a security guard, custodian and training coordinator, Judd said.
“What would an op be if we didn’t arrest someone employed by Disney,” Judd quipped.
Vanguard School athletic director Russell Rogers, who also is an Auburndale High School REAL Academy teacher in the county, was arrested for allegedly soliciting a prostitute.
The married father of three was also a former youth football coach, Judd said.
“This dude now is coaching in county jail,” he said. “I can’t believe we want somebody like this around our children.”
Polk County Schools told Fox 13 they were disappointed to learn of the allegations against Rogers and were moving to fire him.
“Part of being an educator is understanding that you are held to a higher standard for your actions in the classroom, as well as the community,” the school system said in a statement. “These charges don’t involve students, and Rogers was not on duty as a teacher, but this kind of conduct still has no place in our school system.”
Among the more shocking allegations in the case was a father who left behind his 1-year-old daughter to have sex, but allegedly insisted to investigators that the baby was being watched by the family dog, Judd said.
Another man brought his 15-year-old daughter he shares with his ex-wife to the area for her birthday, but instead left her in a motel room to have sex somewhere else, he said.
“For her birthday, we arrested her dad,” Judd said. “And put him in the jail.”
Two women also dragged a 14-month-old child with them when they went to have sex, Judd alleged. While one woman was busy, the other woman watched the child.
And a couple of high-level executives at California-based companies were also arrested.
One complained to sheriff’s deputies as he was arrested, Judd said.
“It’s not against the law to cheat on your wife,” Judd said the man whined.
“So he came here all the way from California to cheat on his wife but he paid money to cheat on his wife. It’s called prostitution.”
At least 21 possible human trafficking victims were identified out of the 119 alleged prostitutes who were taken into custody, the sheriff’s office said.