Florida teacher among 219 arrested in human trafficking operation

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Polk County, Florida, human trafficking operation earlier this month led to the arrests of 219 people, including people in the country illegally, a high school teacher, and three Disney employees, according to authorities.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd on Thursday announced the results of the operation, saying out of 119 prostitutes who were arrested during the operation that began last week, 21 were possible victims of human trafficking.

Two suspects were charged with human trafficking, and both were in the U.S. illegally.

Freddy Escalona, 30, and Maria Guzman, 36, were charged with human trafficking and deriving proceeds from prostitution.

Escalona, police said, lent money to a victim to fix her vehicle, and after she was unable to pay him back, he allegedly forced her into prostitution.

When Escalona drove the victim to the undercover location, he was taken into custody and told detectives he had “several females that he worked,” or who paid him to transport them and keep them safe, Judd said.

Guzman also allegedly trafficked two victims from a hotel in Orlando, setting up their “dates” and profiting from the money they made.

Judd’s office said 83 suspects were arrested for soliciting prostitution; 17 other suspects were arrested, and of those, five either derived proceeds from prostitution or aiding and abetting prostitutes, and eight drove the prostitutes to the undercover location.

Investigators charged a total of 44 felonies and 242 misdemeanors during the operation.

“Not only did we arrest more suspects during this single operation than we have ever arrested before, we identified 21 human trafficking victims; during a similar operation in February, we identified 24 victims,” Judd said. “That’s 45 victims we were able to identify this year. The valuable relationships that we have with the social services organizations who join us in these operations make it possible for these women to get help and be emancipated from this way of life.”


Of those arrested, 35 are suspected to be in the country illegally, and are from the countries of Cuba, Chile, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, Colombia or the Bahamas.

Forty-one of the suspects confessed to detectives they were married; 13 said they received government assistance, 42 brought illegal drugs to the undercover location; two had firearms on them; 18 were from other states; the oldest person arrested was 76-year-old Frank Bydairk; and the youngest was 18-year-old Latrice Vilsaint.

While talking to reporters Thursday, Judd said one man who was arrested left his 1-year-old daughter at home alone while he went to have sex in Polk County. While talking with deputies, Judd said, the man said he did not leave his child at home alone because the dog was watching her.

Russell Rogers of Winter Haven was also arrested during the operation. Judd said Rogers is an athletic director at Vanguard School and a teacher at Auburndale High School REAL Academy.


According to Judd, Rogers is married with three children.

“This dude now is coaching in the county jail,” Judd said. “I can’t believe we want somebody like this around our children.”

FOX 13 Tampa Bay reported that Polk County Schools said they were disappointed to learn one of their employees engaged in that type of behavior.

“Part of being an educator is understanding that you are held to a higher standard for your actions in the classroom, as well as the community,” district officials said. “These charges don’t involve students, and Rogers was not on duty as a teacher, but this kind of conduct still has no place in our school system.”

Rogers, according to the district, was hired in April 2013, and worked for Real Academy since 2017. Polk County Public Schools told the station it is moving forward with the process of terminating Rogers’ employment with the district.


The sheriff’s office said three suspects were Disney employees, and another worked at a Disney hotel.

“This guy has marshmallows for brains,” Judd said while talking of a man who saw police and watched a man and woman enter the room. When the two did not come out, Judd added, the man went inside because he thought it was his turn.

Helping with the seven-day operation were detectives from the Lake County Sheriff’s Office, as well as police departments in Auburndale, Bartow, Davenport, Lakeland, Lake Hamilton, Lake Wales, Winter Haven and Zephyrhills.

Several other agencies assisted, including the Florida Department of Children and Families and social services organizations like One More Child.

source: foxnews.com/florida-teacher-arrested-human-trafficking

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