At least 79 people were arrested as part of the anti-human trafficking “Operation Takedown” led by undercover police officers in Hillsborough County on the west coast of Florida, the local sheriff’s office reported on Thursday.
The undercover operation, which took place between March 30 and April 9, involved searches, investigations and monitoring of online chat rooms, streets and hotels and led to the arrests of 79 people.
Two men, Tampa resident Jason Brooks, 44, and Jamel Muldrew, 32, of Houston, Texas, were arrested on charges related to human trafficking.
Brooks “was arrested after responding to a luring advertisement for prostitution” in which he was to pay for sex with a 17-year-old girl, the Hillborough County Sheriff’s Office said in a statement.
Authorities said “three female victims of human trafficking were recovered as a result of ‘Operation Takedown.'”
“Unfortunately, the only thing wrong with this number, is that we know there are more victims. I want to remind everyone, that if you see something, say something. By reporting anyone you think may be a victim of these heinous crimes, you could be saving a life,” highlighted Chad Chronister, sheriff of the aforementioned county, where Tampa is located.
Detectives also arrested Earnest Benjamin, 39, a local pastor of Breath of Life Worship Church in Tampa, and Christopher Ray, 39, a high school basketball coach at Land O’ Lakes High School.