Detectives with the Polk County Sheriff's Office Vice Unit completed a six-day undercover operation on Sunday, May 19, 2019, in which they posted and responded to ads soliciting prostitution. Detectives attempted to identify victims of human trafficking in prostitution. The operation, which started on Tuesday, May 14, 2019 culminated with the arrests of 154 people.
Click here to view the full news conference on our Youtube channel.
Two females have been identified as likely to be victims of human trafficking; one a 17-year-old and one a 23-year-old. Both had criminal charges. A 17-year-old boy who travelled to the undercover location was not charged with any crimes, but is being considered a victim of human trafficking. All three have been offered services with the One More Child organization, and the Florida Department of Children and Families (DCF) is also involved.
Assisting the Sheriff's Office in the effort were officers from police departments in Lakeland, Winter Haven, and Haines City.
Two other men were arrested for travelling to meet a minor for sex and other charges.
"The primary goal in operations like this is to find victims of human trafficking who are being manipulated into prostitution. Prostitution is also a public safety issue involving the spread of diseases, the use of and dealing in illegal drugs, and other criminal activity that is associated with prostitution. It should be well-known by now that Polk County is not a good place to be involved with prostitution, thanks to operations such as this." - Grady Judd, Sheriff.
The suspects arrested ranged in age between 17 and 69 years old.
Of the 154 suspects arrested:
69 were prostitutes
75 were "johns," or those who solicited to pay for prostitution
8 others were arrested for related charges, such as deriving proceeds from prostitution
2 were arrested for traveling to meet a minor
30 are married
8 were on public assistance
5 are in the country illegally
In all, detectives filed 46 felony charges and 202 misdemeanor charges against the suspects. Among the 154 suspects, there were a total of 567 previous felonies and 695 previous misdemeanor charges in their criminal histories.
Some of the arrests include:
34-yr old James Michels of Tampa, FL
initiated text conversation with an undercover detective posing as a 14-yr old male. Michels said several times that he was disease-free and wanted unprotected anal sex with the boy and described how he liked to teach "newbies." During a post-arrest interview, he admitted to travelling to "see some kid," bringing lubrication, and having child pornography on his cell phone. Michels informed detectives that he has HIV. Michels was initially charged with Traveling to Meet a Minor (F2) as well as Misrepresenting Age via Computer to Lure A Minor (F2), Lewd Battery (F2), Failure to Notify of HIV (F-3), and Use 2-Way Communication to Lure a Minor (F3). A forensic examination of Michels' phone revealed 50 images and over 100 videos of child pornography, including the sexual battery of a boy between 12 and 36 months. Michels was additionally charged with 200 counts of Possession of Child Pornography.
55-yr old Warren Smith of Riverview, FL
engaged in conversation on social media with an undercover detective whom he thought was a 14-yr old boy. Smith was very aggressive in his pursuit of the 14-yr old and explicitly described the acts he wanted to perform on the boy to include oral sex. Smith also directly asked the boy if he was able to "host" or have company over. Smith showed up at the undercover location and was arrested. Post-arrest, Smith stated that he is married and frequently travels to meet various men to engage in sex acts (although he said this was his first time arranging to meet a minor). He was charged with Traveling to Meet after Using Computer to Entice a Child (F2), Lewd Battery (F2), and Unlawful Use of Communication Device (F3).
17-yr old girl from Pinellas County, FL
posted an advertisement online offering escort services. She agreed to travel to the undercover location to engage in a half hour of protected sexual intercourse in exchange for $150. At the location, she offered to sell the detective a baggy of marijuana for an additional $20. Detectives learned the girl was listed as a runaway from Hillsborough County. As a result, she was only charged with Possession of Marijuana (M1) and Paraphernalia Possession (M1) due to her status of a minor involved in prostitution. She was transported to JAC.
25-yr old Antonio Wilson of St. Petersburg, FL
posted an advertisement online offering escort services. Wilson agreed to travel to the undercover location to engage in protected sexual intercourse in exchange for $100. In addition, Wilson travelled with two other males (Michael Mitchell and a juvenile male) to also engage in sex for an additional $100 each. The juvenile was transported by detectives to the George Harris Youth Shelter. Upon Wilson's arrest, he revealed he is a before and after-school child care worker at North Short Elementary School in Pinellas County. He was caught with brass knuckles and was charged with Carrying a Concealed Weapon (F3), in addition to Contributing to Delinquency of a Minor (M1), and Offering to Commit Prostitution (M2).
40-yr old Mahasin Valentine of Lakeland
posted an advertisement online offering escort services. She agreed to travel to the undercover location to meet with an undercover detective where they further discussed her engaging in straight sex in exchange for $100. Subsequent to her arrest, a search of her car revealed a 9-yr old boy along with a male companion. When questioned further, Valentine stated the man lived in the same hotel as her, but the boy was not familiar with him. DCF was contacted and responded to the scene and took custody of the child. Valentine was charged with Child Endangerment (F3) and Offering to Commit Prostitution (M1).
28-yr old Pedro Annulysse of Santa Rosa Beach, FL
responded to an online advertisement offering escort services posted online by an undercover detective. Annulysse grabbed the detective and gave her the $120 and was subsequently arrested. Post-arrest, detectives learned Annulysse is enlisted in the US Army as a Staff Sergeant Recruiter assigned to Panama City. He also told detectives he was here on vacation visiting LEGOLAND with his wife and children, whom he left at the hotel to travel to the undercover location.
30-yr old Camilo Valencia of Lakeland
responded to an online advertisement posted by an undercover detective. After agreeing to travel to the undercover location, Valencia solicited the detective to perform oral sex on him as well as have protected vaginal sex in exchange for $50. During the course of conversation, Valencia grabbed the undercover detective's breast. Valencia was subsequently arrested and charged with Battery (M1) and Soliciting Another to Commit Prostitution (M1). At the time of his arrest, Valencia was employed by the Polk County School Board as a custodian at the Kathleen High School Aerospace Academy.
38-yr old Robert Miranda of Melbourne, FL
responded to an online advertisement posted by an undercover detective. Miranda wanted to give the detective $100 to dance and perform oral sex on him, and an additional $100 to engage in full sexual intercourse. He stated he was high on cocaine and would bring some additional cocaine so he could party all night with her. After arriving at the undercover location, Miranda gave the money as described and poured some cocaine on a table which he intended to snort, but was interrupted by other detectives. Miranda was charged with Possession of Cocaine (F3), Soliciting Another for Prostitution (M1), and Paraphernalia Possession (M1).
28-yr old Josefina Powers of Lake Wales
posted an advertisement online offering escort services and ultimately agreed to engage in protected intercourse in exchange for $200 (of which $50 was to cover her ride). Because she was arrested in 2017 during a previous PCSO undercover operation, Powers was charged this time with Offering to Commit Prostitution-2nd offense (M1).
Detectives made contact with Powers' driver, 35-year old Billy Ray Lemay of Lake Wales
, who has a suspended driver's license. He was found in possession of a baggie of Methamphetamine and a digital scale. Powers was charged with Possession of Methamphetamine (F3), Possession of Paraphernalia (M1), Aid/Abet Prostitution (M2), and Transporting for Prostitution (M2).
43-yr old Manuel Rivera of Tampa, FL
responded to an advertisement online posted by an undercover detective requesting to engage in protected sex in exchange for $80. Rivera grabbed the detective and was also found to be in possession of a concealed handgun. Rivera was charged with Carrying Concealed Firearm (F3), Battery (M1), and Solicit Another to Engage in Prostitution (M1).