95 arrested in Polk prostitution bust

They've done it before and they'll do it again: Polk County and Lakeland detectives swept up the illegal sex industry in town, vowing to keep offenders out of their county.

According to the sheriff's office, female undercover detectives posted fictitious ads online, and male undercover detectives responded to ads posted online by others.

In less than a week's time, undercover detectives made dozens of arrests, including a high school math teacher, a college football player, and a man dressed to the nines for his proposed encounter.

"He rode a bike, clear across Lakeland in his French maid outfit, with a dog collar on," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Monday.

It wasn't just customers getting cuffed. Fifty people were also arrested for prostitution. Judd says more than 30 johns were also arrested in the operation. He says at least three of the women being sold for sex are victims of human trafficking.

"What we find is usually a very scared young lady who has been wrapped up psychologically and sometimes physically through the use of drugs," Judd said.

Counselors are now working with victims to try to get them back on track. In the meantime, Judd says this sting should serve as an important reminder.

"If you see a road sign that says you're entering Polk County, and you think you're going to commit crime, know you're not going to commit crime and get away with it," Judd said.

Sheriff judd reinforced that this is not a victimless crime. Seventeen of the men arrested are married.  Those charged in the sting have a combined 205 previous felony arrests. 

Deputies said, of the 95 suspects arrested in "Operation Naughty Not Nice":

  • 50 were prostitutes
  • 33 were “johns,” or those who solicited to pay for prostitution
  • 12 others were arrested for related charges (see below)
  • 17 told detectives they were married
  • 25 told detectives they were on public assistance
  • 28 are Polk County residents

In all, detectives filed 21 felony charges and 111 misdemeanor charges against the 95 suspects.