A six-day undercover human trafficking operation in Florida dubbed ‘March Sadness,’ has resulted in 108 arrests, including alleged child sexual predators and those seeking prostitutes, according to police.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office shared in a police report that among those who were arrested were four Disney employees and a retired judge.
The operation had detectives finding prostitutes who had posted online advertisements through a number of websites and social media accounts in order to find those looking for them.
Detectives also found adults that were allegedly inappropriately communicating with children.
Polk County Sheriff Grad Judd shared more information in a press conference on Wednesday, saying that it was a success.
“The arrests of a human trafficker and four child predators alone makes this whole operation worthwhile,” Judd said. “Where there is prostitution, there is exploitation, disease, dysfunction, and broken families.”
Detectives went undercover to communicate online with the suspects, planning meetups where they were arrested on site.
The sheriff’s office also shared that an anti-trafficking organization worked with them, speaking with prostitutes and offering them services and counseling.
Of those arrested and identified, Judd shared that Daniel Peters, 66, told detectives he used to be a judge in the Cook County 4th Sub Circuit Court in Illinois. He was charged with soliciting a prostitute.
“He requested an attorney,” Judd said. “Well, judge, you need an attorney. You got problems.”
As for the Disney employees, 27-year-old Xavier Jackson worked as a lifeguard at the Polynesian Resort for Walt Disney. Jackson had reportedly sent inappropriate photos of himself and messages to undercover detectives posing as a 14-year-old girl.
Jackson has been charged with three counts of transmitting harmful material to a minor along with one count of unlawful communication, Judd said.
Disney shared in a statement to CBS News that three of the employees have been placed on unpaid leave and one no longer works for the company.
“We protected some little girl someplace that was groomed or potentially groomed by these evil, deviant criminals, thugs, that’s all they are,” Judd said about the four suspects at a press conference. “They’re dangerous people.”
The other employees were identified as Wilkason Fidele, 24, an employee at Cosmic Restaurant at Walt Disney World; Ralph Leese, 45, who worked in IT for Disney; and Shubham Malave, 27, who worked as a software developer for Disney on visa citizenship from India and is no longer at the company.
“He’s married,” Judd said about Leese. “So I’m sure Disney’s not pleased. I bet his wife’s not pleased, but we’re pleased that we arrested him.”
During the conference, Judd didn’t hold back and shared that his office isn’t close to being done after 108 arrests, warning anyone who violates the law will be arrested.
“What amazes me is we could do another operation starting next week and fill this board up again,” Judd said. “And be sure of one thing: These chiefs and I will do just that. We’ll be back, and if you violate the law, we’re going to take you to jail. That’s a guarantee.”