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176 arrested during Hillsborough human-trafficking operation

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Posted at 10:57 AM, Aug 25, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-25 17:36:22-04

TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister on Thursday detailed the arrests of more than 170 people during a human trafficking operation that was conducted over several months.

Chronister said HCSO's Human Trafficking Squad started this investigation in April and focused on stopping the demand for prostitution. According to the sheriff's office, most of the 176 men arrested face charges related to solicited prostitution.

According to Chronister, the squad was formed just over a year ago, in June 2021, and since then, has arrested 360 people and saved eight victims.

RECOMMENDED: Florida safe house helps sex trafficking survivors recover from trauma, abuse

Chronister said one of the men arrested in this operation made arrangements to meet an undercover detective and pay for sex while on his honeymoon. According to Chronister, the man left his new wife in their hotel, traveled to meet the detective, and was arrested, HCSO said.

The sheriff's office said some of the men arrested attempted to meet minors for sex. Ten of the men arrested had "inappropriate conversations, often sharing pictures and videos, with undercover detectives who they thought were underage boys or girls," according to HCSO.

"When I became Sheriff — I made a commitment to fight illegal prostitution and to protect the citizens of Hillsborough County from being victimized by predators in our midst," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "The Human Trafficking Squad has been given all the resources they need to save the victims, who often find themselves in a dark and dangerous life with no way out."

Chronister said recently, detectives learned of two suspects who traveled from Massachusetts to Tampa with two teenage girls who were missing. The men and the girls were located, along with another male suspect. HCSO said the three men were arrested and the missing teenagers were taken into protective custody.

"I want to thank organizations like Selah Freedom, and other victims advocates, who ensure these victims were given proper food and shelter," said Sheriff Chad Chronister. "During our work to eradicate the disgusting act of prostitution, one victim was taken to rehab. Another was returned to her mother, and one provided a plane ticket to return to her family in another state."