Polk County’s Operation Traffic Stop 2 Results in 219 Arrests

October 26, 2023 Criminal Defense, News & Announcements, Sex Crimes

We previously covered the first Operation Traffic Stop in a blog post earlier this year. The second operation by Polk County Sherrif’s Office, along with several other jurisdictions, took place this September and resulted in over 200 arrests for differing sex crimes.

The resulting charges varied between soliciting sex, offering to commit prostitution, and the engagement in human trafficking. This page will provide the operation’s details, along with the various charges a person can face for these types of offenses in Florida. 

Case Details

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit conducted a seven-day undercover operation beginning September 19, 2023. The operation included help from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, Auburndale PD, Bartow PD, and Zephyrhills PD.

The individuals who traveled for the alleged sex work were met and screened by the undercover detectives to determine whether they had been exploited or trafficked. Social services were also on hand to assist detectives. The investigation pointed to 21 possible victims of human trafficking out of the 119 sex workers who were arrested.

Polk County’s news release explained that there were 83 suspects arrested for the solicitation of prostitution and traveling to engage in sex for money. There were 17 other suspects arrested—with five suspects being charged with deriving proceeds from the illegal sex work, and eight suspects arrested for driving the sex workers to the undercover location.

There were two suspects who were arrested and charged with human trafficking:

  • Freddy Escalona – The Illinois native was charged with human trafficking and deriving proceeds from prostitution. The report states that he loaned a person money to fix her car, and then forced her to provide sex work to pay him back. Escalona allegedly drove her to the undercover location where he was apprehended by police. He claimed that he had “several females that worked” who would pay him to transport them and “keep them safe.”
  • Maria Guzman – Was charged with human trafficking and deriving proceeds for setting up “dates” for two victims from a hotel in Orlando. She also allegedly made money off the profits the victims made.

A local news report indicated that one of the suspects who paid for prostitution left his one-year-old daughter home alone while he drove to the undercover location in Polk County. There were also three Disney employees and one high school teacher at Auburndale High School REAL Academy who were arrested for paying for sex.

Another suspect from California told police, “It’s not illegal to cheat on your wife.” However, police responded that paying for sex in Florida is illegal.

In total, the detectives charged those involved in Operation Traffic Stop 2 with 44 felonies and 242 misdemeanors. As this is still an ongoing case, there may be more charges made.

You can read about the first Operation Traffic Stop in our blog post here.


The following is a statement provided by Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd:

“Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, we identified 21 human trafficking victims; during a similar operation in February, we identified 24 victims. That’s 45 victims we were able to identify this year. 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.”

Data From Operation

The following is a list of data from Operation Traffic Stop 2:

  • 35 of those arrested were suspected of illegally entering the country, with three of the 35 being identified as victims of human trafficking;
  • 42 of the suspects brought illegal drugs to the location, with detectives seizing marijuana, cocaine, methamphetamine, crack cocaine, and fentanyl;
  • Two of the suspects brought firearms with them to the undercover location;
  • 18 of the suspects were from out of Florida, with suspects coming from Alabama, California, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Maryland, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Tennessee, and Wisconsin; and
  • The oldest suspect in the operation was 76 and the youngest suspect was 18.

Penalties for Prostitution and Human Trafficking

Sex work is illegal in the state of Florida. There is certain legislation in place to prevent the solicitation of sex, the offer to commit prostitution, and human trafficking.

A person accused of offering to commit prostitution in Florida faces a second-degree misdemeanor. A conviction for a second-degree misdemeanor can result in up to a $500 fine and up to 60 days in jail. However, a second or subsequent offense can result in more severe penalties.

A person accused of soliciting prostitution in Florida faces a first-degree misdemeanor. A conviction for a first-degree misdemeanor can result in up to $1,000 in fines and up to one year in jail.

A person accused of engaging in human trafficking in Florida faces a first-degree felony. A conviction for a first-degree felony carries up to a $10,000 fine and up to 30 years in prison. However, there are more severe penalties for a person accused of trafficking a minor under 18 or a person considered mentally incapacitated. Important: A human trafficking case can be prosecuted by both State and Federal jurisdiction.

Tallahassee, FL Criminal Defense Attorney

Florida law considers human trafficking a modern-day version of slavery. Any person who is accused of human trafficking or other forms of sex crimes should prioritize seeking legal help. If your case ends in a conviction, you could face extensive imprisonment, be forced to pay expensive fines, plus other consequences.

The intention of law enforcement during these types of undercover operations is to make as many arrests as possible. It is important to understand all the potential penalties if you or a loved one are being accused of sex crimes through an undercover operation. Your best shot at fighting the charges against you is by hiring an experienced defense attorney. Pumphrey Law Firm has years of experience representing people who have falsely been accused of crimes. You can receive a free consultation regarding your case when you contact us at (850) 681-7777 or leave us a message online. 

Written by Karissa Key

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