Operation March Sadness 2 Leads to Over 100 Arrests
March 22, 2022 Don Pumphrey, Jr. Criminal Defense Social Share
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office six-day undercover human trafficking operation titled “Operation March Sadness 2” resulted in the arrests of approximately 108 people on March 17, 2022. Among those people were a retired judge and at least three Walt Disney World employees. This is not the first human trafficking sting conducted by Polk County Sheriff’s Office, and unfortunately, it is not the first time Disney employees have been arrested in connection with them. In August 2021, seventeen people, including three Disney employees, were arrested in connection with “Operation Child Protector.” To read more about this undercover sting and the unwavering problem Disney has with sex trafficking in Florida, visit our blog here.
What Did the Operation Entail?
The operation involved undercover detectives targeting prostitution advertisements that were posted online in order to identify and free any human trafficking victims who were being forced into prostitution. They also sought to identify and apprehend the “johns” who were seeking out the ads online as well as anyone else who was participating in human trafficking. Detectives also investigated and identified adults who engaged in “online sexually charged communications with those they believed were children.”
Detectives communicated online with the suspects and then arranged a meetup location. Once the suspects arrived at the location, they were arrested. Members of anti-trafficking organizations such as One More Child, Heartland for Children, and Selah Freedom of Sarasota were also at the scene to speak with the women and determine if they were victims of human trafficking, as well as offer services and counseling.
Although the sheer number of arrests is startling, some certainly stood out. Tiffany Nash, a 32-year-old from Orlando, was arrested for human trafficking. It was revealed that a victim who arrived at the meetup location as a prostitute was forced to engage in prostitution by Nash, who threatened violence if she did not comply and took all the money the victim made as a prostitute. Nash was charged with Human Trafficking, Deriving Proceeds from Prostitution, Possession of Cocaine, Possession of Methamphetamine, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
In addition, four men were arrested for preying on children online after they communicated online with an undercover officer, posing as a 13-year-old or 14-year old, including Timothy Finley of Mulberry, Shannon Johnson of Orlando, Jody Rose of Gainesville, and Xavier Jackson of Kissimmee. Jackson informed police that he worked at Disney as a lifeguard at the Polynesian Resort.
Shubham Malave, who was employed by Disney as a software developer, Wilkason Fidele, who worked at the Cosmic Resort at Disney’s Tomorrowland for four years, and Ralph Leese, who worked in IT for Disney for nearly four years were all arrested and charged with solicitation as a result of the sting operation. In response to the arrests, Disney has issued a statement to CBS News that Malave does not work for them and the other three suspects have been placed on unpaid leave.
Daniel Peters of Palos Hills, Illinois, was also charged with soliciting a prostitute, and told law enforcement he is a retired Cook County, Illinois judge and a Special Assistant for Legal Affairs at the Cook County Sheriff’s Office.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd stated:
The arrests of a human trafficker and four child predators alone make this whole operation worthwhile. The online prostitution industry enables traffickers and victimizes those who are being trafficked. Our goal is to identify victims, offer them help, and find and arrest those who are profiting from the exploitation of human beings.
To read more about undercover child predator sting operations in Florida, as well as penalties for child predator crimes, visit our blog here.
Tallahassee Criminal Defense Attorney
If you or a loved one has been charged with solicitation in Florida, contact a qualified Tallahassee criminal defense attorney as soon as possible to explore your case. Don Pumphrey and the members of the legal team at Pumphrey Law Firm have decades of experience and will ensure you or a loved one receive the best defense possible. Contact us today at (850) 681 – 7777 or send an online message today to discuss your legal matter during an open and free consultation with an attorney in our legal team.
Written by Sarah Kamide