Polk County, Florida — At the conclusion of a four-day-long human trafficking/prostitution investigation, targeting online e-commerce sites related to men and women who were advertising to commit prostitution and who were soliciting others for prostitution, 98 suspects were arrested. Their charges ranged from Offering to Commit Lewdness in which the suspects either posted online ads, or answered online ads; to Aiding and Abetting Prostitution; Deriving Proceeds from Prostitution; Possession of Illegal Drugs; Child Abuse by Neglect; Felony Battery; Resisting; Traffic Offenses; and Violation of Probation.
The investigation was conducted by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. The investigation was; Operation: “When Will You Learn.”
Of the 98 suspects arrested: (some suspects may fall into multiple categories)
- 24 were married
- 15 are on public assistance
- 16 suspects were arrested when they brought prostitutes to the undercover location;
- 28 suspects arrested were prostitutes;
- 52 suspects arrested were “johns” or those who wished to pay for sex from prostitutes.
- 2 other suspects were charged with other crimes — one was charged with Possession of Marijuana and Drug Paraphernalia — the second was charged with No Valid Driver’s License and Violation of Probation.
- And 64 of those arrested have been arrested over 448 times before.
Polk County has a zero tolerance for human trafficking. It is during undercover prostitution investigations that victims of human trafficking are identified.
On May 14, 2014, Florida Attorney General Pam Bondi announced the conviction of human trafficker 22-year-old Montavious Rakeem Postell of Orlando. Postell was identified during a 2013 PCSO undercover prostitution investigation in which a 15-year-old girl was arrested for prostitution.
After her arrest, PCSO detectives established a rapport with the juvenile and learned she had been given drugs, physically beaten and sexually abused. Detectives learned Postell had prostituted the young girl to adult men, forcing her to commit lewd acts for his financial gain.
Postell was sentenced to nine years in prison followed by five years of supervised sex offender probation.
During this last investigation, which began on Thursday, May 22, 2014, and ended on Sunday, May 25, 2014, two potential cases of human trafficking were identified. Due to the sensitive nature of these investigations, no additional information about the victims will be released.
Out of the 28 prostitutes arrested, 20 had criminal records that included 233 arrests comprising of 112 felonies and 165 misdemeanors. Of the 16 people who brought prostitutes to the undercover location, 15 had criminal records that included 92 total arrests comprising of 72 felonies and 67 misdemeanors.
“We’ve seen firsthand the negative social costs of how prostitution hurts families, children, and communities, including the spreading of infectious diseases. And more often than not, there is a high correlation between crime—illegal drugs, violent crime and property crime—and prostitution, and we see repeat criminal offenders engaging in sex for money,” said Sheriff Grady Judd of the Polk County Sheriff’s Office.
Some of those arrested include:
44-year-old Michael Johnson of Orlando, a former police officer whom worked for the Orlando Police Department in the mid 1990’s. He attempted to recruit a female undercover officer to engage in prostitution with clients he would locate and take her to for 25% of the proceeds. He told the detective she could keep more if she had sex with him. He was charged with Deriving Support/Proceeds of Prostitution and Use of a Two-Way Communication Device to Commit a Felony.
20-year-old Deanna Elimon of Jacksonville went to the undercover location to engage in sexual intercourse in exchange for $300. Elimon was driven to the location by John Alexander. In the car with Elimon and Alexander were two children Elimon had access to – a five year old and a one year old. Shortly after Elimon made contact with the undercover detective, Alexander left the children, who were sleeping in the unlocked vehicle and came to the undercover room and began to knock. Alexander was arrested. Detectives took custody of the children and discovered the one year old child was soaked in urine. Department of Children and Families was notified and the children were turned over to them. Elimon was charged with Soliciting Another for Lewdness, 2 counts of Child Abuse by Neglect, Possession of Cannabis, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia. Alexander was charged with Violation of Driver’s License Restrictions, Aiding and Abetting Prostitution, 2 counts of Child Abuse by Neglect, six counts of Violation of Probation (cocaine/sale/manufacture/delivery). On his Facebook page, Alexander listed his work as: “works at: staying out of jail.”
56-year-old Frank Portlock of Winter Haven, solicited an undercover female detective to have sexual intercourse for $100. Portlock listed his employment as a co-owner of the Chevrolet Center in Winter Haven. He was charged with Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution.
30-year-old Amber Gonzalez of Cape Coral, arrived at the undercover location with a 15-year-old girl from Miami to engage in sexual intercourse as a couple with a male undercover detective. The two were driven to the location by 31-year-old Ghassan Gonzalez. Ghassan Gonzalez told detectives that he works for “Girly Girls Escorts” as a driver and gets paid to drive girls to appointments. Amber Gonzalez and the 15-year-old girl was charged with Soliciting Another for Lewdness and Ghassan Gonzalez was charged with Deriving Proceeds from Prostitution.
25-year-old Jalil Hayes of Davenport, was at the undercover location completing an employment application when he made contact with an undercover female detective as she entered the location. Hayes asked the detective what she was doing there and when she advised she was working, Hayes requested her phone number and told her he would call after completing the application. After completing the employment application, Hayes solicited the undercover detective to pay her $40 in exchange for sex. Hayes advised he is currently enlisted in the National Guard stationed in Griffin, Georgia. He was charged with Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution.
33-year-old Justin Link of Davenport, responded to the undercover location after telling the female undercover detective that he was going to put her to work with his friends for sex in exchange for drugs as payment for her work. When Link arrived at the undercover location, he produced three small baggies of cocaine, dumping two bags into a line on the table and requesting the undercover detective to “snort a line” with him. Link brought a backpack that contained rope, duct tape, female lingerie, high heels, a mesh top, lace body stockings, camcorder, a red thong, two chain dog collars, and a vibrator. He was charged with Possession of Cannabis, Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution, Possession of Cocaine With Intent to Deliver, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
34-year-old Margaret Obasi of Rio Pinar Lakes Blvd., Orlando, travelled to the undercover location to commit prostitution with an undercover detective. She told detectives her husband (31-year-old Jamohn Mack of the same address in Orlando) brought her to the undercover location and knew about the prostitution. Mack told detectives he took photographs of Obasi so she could create an advertisement on Backpage.com. Mack also told detectives he took her to the undercover location so she could commit prostitution and that he would receive half the money Obasi would make. Obasi was charged with Soliciting Another for Lewdness (offering to commit prostitution), and Mack was charged with Deriving Proceeds from Prostitution, Possession of Cannabis, Possession of Drug Paraphernalia, and Possession of a Controlled Substance Without a Prescription.
36-year-old Yuval Barak of Nanuet, New York was arrested after he responded to the undercover location to engage in sexual intercourse with a female undercover detective in exchange for $80. Barak is a registered sex offender resulting from a New York arrest for statutory rape of a 14-year-old girl.
“Prostitution is not a victimless crime. We have found a direct nexus between prostitution and human trafficking – forcing a juvenile to commit lewd acts with adult men for financial gain is something we will not tolerate. One of our best tools to find, arrest, and prosecute traffickers is to conduct undercover prostitution investigations. Whether it is on the street or online, prostitution, and the crimes it attempts to disguise, is illegal and we will continue to investigate and arrest those involved,” said Sheriff Grady Judd.
View all 98 arrests here.