TAMPA, Fla. (FOX 13) - The Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office announced the arrest of a major human trafficking suspect Tuesday, while asking for victims to come forward.
Deputies arrested Steven Tylor Cook, 29, at a gas station on Busch Boulevard but said he had been on their radar for months.
"We believe this individual is part of a larger criminal ring responsible for trafficking even more women," said Sheriff Chad Chronister.
The investigation into Cook began in May, when detectives began conducting undercover operations at several motels. That was when Cook was arrested for several crimes, including prostitution, when he dropped off two suspected prostitutes at a motel.
Investigators, however, didn't have enough evidence at the time to charge him with human trafficking. Chronister said detectives recently got the break in the case they needed.
"We were able to convince one of the individuals that were being trafficked to not live in fear, trust us, come forward and build a case around her," he said. "With an individual like this, who's so engaged in criminal behavior, deplorable behavior like human trafficking, today his arrest was not just a win for us as a sheriff's office, but us as a community."
The arrest is timely, with more than 60 sheriffs in Tampa for the Florida Sheriffs Association conference. One of the main topics discussed was human trafficking.
"You talk about human trafficking," said Pasco County Sheriff Chris Nocco, "those are things that we're starting to see more and more in communities and I think we're seeing more of it because our citizens are being educated on it. They're starting to learn about human trafficking. And because they're educated on it, they're able to identify it and report it to law enforcement."
Chronister is urging other victims in the Cook case to come forward by contacting the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office.