TAMPA, Fla. — The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office says an undercover human trafficking operation led to the arrests of more than 40 men.
According to a press release, 49 men were arrested between October 26 and 27 during "Operation Curb Appeal." During the investigation, female HCSO deputies posed as sex workers through online ads and walking the streets in the county.
During the two day operation, the sheriff's office says more than 200 men made contact with undercover detectives through an online ad. Authorities say 40 additional men approached the undercover deputies posed as sex workers on the streets in Tampa and Town 'N' Country.
“The driving force of human trafficking is, and always will be, the desire and willingness of Johns, who are the customers, to pay for sex with people who are victims of this industry,” said Sheriff Chad Chronister. “Without demand, an industry falls apart.”
The men arrested range in age from 20 to 76, with backgrounds that include carpenters, information technology professionals, an accountant, a college student, and an active-duty military member.
The sheriff's office says one of the men arrested, 37-year-old Issac Jermaine Thomas faces additional charges after he tried to drive away during his arrest.
Sheriff Chad Chronister said human trafficking-related operations in Hillsborough County will continue to increase ahead of the Super Bowl LV in February.
"Prostitution should not be viewed as a victimless crime. The person on the other end of these transactions could be someone who has been forced into human trafficking,” said Sheriff Chronister. "I want to make it clear to those who want to purchase sex here in our community, you will be held accountable for your actions."