“Operation March Sadness”
Polk County Sheriff’s Undercover Detectives Arrest 104 Suspects During Six-Day-Long Prostitution Investigation Targeting Human Trafficking
During a six-day-long undercover investigation from Tuesday, March 14th through Sunday, March 20th, 2017, focusing on those who advertise prostitution services in online ads and identifying victims of human trafficking, Polk County Sheriff’s undercover detectives, working with the Office of the State Attorney (10th Judicial Circuit, State Attorny Brian Haas) arrested a total of 104 suspects.
During the investigation, undercover detectives posted fictitious ads online, and responded to ads posted online by others. The types of suspects arrested were: those who responded to the ads posted by the undercover detectives, or “johns;” those who came to the undercover location to have sex for money, or “prostitutes;” one suspect who traveled to the undercover location to have sex with a minor; and others associated with both types of suspects.
“We suspect that some of the people who arrived at our undercover location are victims of human trafficking. We are proud of our partnership with The Porch Light Organization, who continue to work with us during investigations like this one, to help provide much needed resources to human trafficking victims.” Grady Judd, Sheriff
The suspects ranged in age from 20 – 63 years old.
Traveling to meet a minor arrest:
One suspect traveled to the undercover location to have sex with who he thought was a 14-year-old girl. According to his affidavit:
· 32-year-old Dirk Watson, of Merritt Island, FL, began chatting online to an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl. During their online conversation, Watson solicited the “girl” to engage in sexual activity. Watson then drove to the undercover location and was arrested and charged with:
o Use of Computer To Seduce Child (F-3)
o Use of Two-Way Communication Device to Commit Felony (F-3)
o Traveling to Meet a Minor (F-2)
o Lewd Molestation (F-2)
Watson is an active-duty Captain in the U.S. Air Force, stationed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station, and a coach for his son’s little league baseball team. His wife and two children were at Disney World, and he was going to join them on Sunday. Instead, he was arrested on Saturday evening (March 18, 2017). His mugshot is below.
Noteworthy arrests (johns):
· 20-year-old John Thompson, of Orlando, FL, replied to a fictitious ad placed by an undercover detective and arrived at the undercover location to have sex with a prostitute. He was arrested and charged with Soliciting Prostitution. Post-Miranda, Thompson told detectives he was arrested by PCSO in a similar undercover operation in June 2016, for which he was sentenced to the jail work release program (click here to read that news release: http://bit.ly/1Ua4GjG).
· 42-year-old Kevin Robinson, of Springfield, VA, replied to a fictitious ad placed by an undercover detective and arrived at the undercover location to have sex with two prostitutes. He brought a bag with him to the undercover location, containing bikinis, mouthwash, wet wipes, and contraception. He was arrested and charged with Soliciting Prostitution. Post-Miranda, he told detectives he is Reserve Lieutenant Commander in the U.S. Navy stationed in Norfolk, Virginia.
· 51-year-old John Hamilton, of Melbourne, FL, replied to a fictitious ad placed by an undercover detective and arrived at the undercover location to have sex with two prostitutes. He told detectives he is a retired Major in the U.S. Air Force. He was arrested last year in Brevard County for Battery, Domestic Violence.
· 53-year-old Steven Abboud, of Davenport, FL, replied to a fictitious ad placed by an undercover detective and arrived at the undercover location to have sex with a prostitute. He left his three children at home with a coworker, and told them he was going to the bank. He has an extensive criminal history, including prior arrests for drugs, lewdness, and organized crime.
· 26-year-old Akmal Urunboev, of Orlando, FL, replied to a fictitious ad placed by an undercover detective and arrived at the undercover location via Uber to have sex with a prostitute. He told detectives he is here seeking political asylum.
Noteworthy arrests (prostitutes):
· 24-year-old Vera Vinnitskiy, of Northport, FL, arrived at the undercover location with co-defendant 23-year-old Yelena Sarioglo, of Largo, FL, to engage in sexual activity with undercover detectives in exchange for money. They both had ads posted online. Both were arrested and charged with Offering to Engage in Lewdness, and post-Miranda, told detectives that they left their young children at home with Sarioglo’s boyfriend in Largo. Detectives contacted the Largo Police Department and DCF to respond to the home and check on the children.
· 20-year-old Erica Little, arrived at the undercover location with co-defendant and cousin, 30-year-old Lonnette Little, both of North Carolina, to engage in sexual activity with undercover detectives in exchange for money. Erica had an “escort” ad online. When she arrived at the undercover location, she asked the detective if he also wanted to have sex with her cousin for money; Lonnette then came inside, leaving Lonnette’s 7-year-old son in the car alone. Detectives contacted DCF to respond to the scene. Detectives also found Oxycodone and marijuana in the car. Erica was arrested and charged with Offering to Engage in Lewdness, and Lonnette was arrested and charged with Offering to Engage in Lewdness, Possession of Marijuana, Possession of Oxycodone, and Possession of Drug Paraphernalia.
· 34-year-old Jenna Crocker, of Hollywood, FL, arrived at the undercover location to engage in sexual activity with an undercover detective in exchange for money. Jenna had an ad posted online. She brought marijuana with her. A check of her criminal history revealed she has been arrested four (4) previous times in Florida for charges related to prostitution, making this arrest a felony.
· 22-year-old Sierra Taylor-Edwards, of Orlando, FL, arrived at the undercover location to engage in sexual activity with an undercover detective in exchange for money. She has nine (9) prior arrests for prostitution, from Louisiana, California, and Texas. She had marijuana with her when she arrived at the location.
Of the 104 suspects arrested:
· 38 were prostitutes
· 51 were “johns,” or those who solicited to pay for prostitution
· 14 others were arrested for related charges, such as deriving proceeds from prostitution
· 1 was arrested for traveling to meet a minor
· 23 told detectives they were married
· Detectives seized 2 firearms, and drugs including marijuana, Oxycodone, heroin, and cocaine
· Many of the prostitutes traveled to Florida, and told detectives they travel across the country, having sex for money
In all, detectives filed 37 felony charges and 128 misdemeanor charges against the 104 suspects.
Among the 104 suspects, there were a total of 191 previous felonies and 288 previous misdemeanor charges in their criminal histories.