WINTER HAVEN, Fla. - For critics of Sheriff Grady Judd's numerous online prostitution stings that often net dozens of suspects as being trivial or focusing on misdemeanor offenses, Polk County's top cop had a sharp response during a news conference Wednesday.
Judd said his last prostitution bust in May that led to 92 arrests, also led to the breakup of a human trafficking ring that was transporting young girls around Florida as sex slaves.
"Human trafficking is the fastest growing criminal enterprise of the 21st century," Judd said, citing statistics from the federal department of Health and Human Services. "They estimate it to a $9 billion industry a year."
Tampa police arrested Montavius Postell, 22, at a Clarion Hotel after Polk deputies had been piecing together his alleged operation. Known as "King" on the street, Postell is charged with using a 15-year old girl as a sex slave, and taking her and possibly other victims to locations in Ft. Lauderdale, Tampa, and Orlando.
The teenager was part of May's prostitution dragnet, and Judd said it was a delicate process getting her to speak about her role in the human trafficking ring. Detectives suspected she was involved because of an ID mark on her skin.
"That in the year 2013, we are tattooing, branding children and people are using them as consumable merchandise," a disgusted Judd said. "Then they simply throw them away."
Judd said a second suspect, 48-year old Michael Kempfer of Orange County, was an alleged driver for the prostitutes. He was also arrested during the May sting.
The sheriff also pointed out that Postell had a long criminal history at such a young age, but managed to avoid any serious time behind bars.
"51 arrests, 54 charges," Judd said. "He's never been to state prison. He's never been designated as a felon," he said.
Postell is also accused of using state-funded food cards, despite having income from his alleged prostitution business.
The Polk Sheriff's Office worked with the Florida Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution, which has been working on several human trafficking cases.
"The state of Florida has a zero tolerance policy," said Diane Checchio, a state prosecutor who said she will take Postell and Kempfer to trial in Orange County Circuit Court on human trafficking charges. That could result in a life prison term if they're convicted.
Judd, meanwhile, propped up a picture of "King" Postell on his podium, and remarked that the suspect's days as a human trafficker were over.
"This is 'King.' Well, an ace always trumps a king. And our guys aced him last night," Judd said.
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