Crime

Florida cops arrest 85 in major human trafficking operation

Operation “Trade Secrets” netted 85 arrests in Hillsborough County over the weekend, ranging in charges from human trafficking to voyeurism to child pornography.

Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said the operation, which launched Jan. 1, focused on human trafficking and illegal sex trade activities.

“Today is simply a progress report,” Chronister told reporters Monday. “This remains an important priority and these efforts will have no ending until human trafficking is stopped.”

Chronister said his investigators used a variety of law enforcement techniques during the operation, targeting motels, strip clubs, adult book stores, massage parlors and internet activities. Chronister singled out one of the suspects in his press conference as 40-year-old Marcell Walsh.

Cops say Walsh brought a 24-year-old female to a hotel and during the undercover operation, admitted to the detective posing as a “John” that she was being forced to have sex for Walsh’s profit.

“She was not arrested,” Chronister said. “We are highly focused on human trafficking and the devastating impact it has on the victims, families and our communities. It can happen in any community and involves any age, race and nationality.”

Chronister said after “debriefing” each of the 85 people charged in an attempt to identify further human trafficking victims, “Challenges remain because many of the victims don’t come forward for fear of retaliation by their trafficker or because they have a distrust of law enforcement. We are here to help and sometimes help is as simple as a phone call away.”

Chronister implored potential victims to call law enforcement or the national hotline at 888-373-7888.

“Let this operation serve as a warning to those who exploit sex,” Chronister said. “There is zero tolerance for this type of predatory behavior. For anyone involved with this despicable behavior, stop, because we are coming for you.”

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