August 13, 2022

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Home » 124 arrested in undercover human trafficking operation ‘Santa’s Naughty List’

124 arrested in undercover human trafficking operation ‘Santa’s Naughty List’

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124 arrested in undercover human trafficking operation 'Santa's Naughty List'

124 arrested in undercover human trafficking operation 'Santa's Naughty List'

POLK COUNTY, Fla. — The Polk County Sheriff’s Office has arrested 124 people during a 6-day undercover operation called Santa’s Naughty List.

Fifty-three people were arrested for prostitution and 46 people were arrested for seeking the services of a prostitute during the undercover operation Santa’s Naughty List, according to the Polk County Sheriff’s Office

What we know:

  • 124 arrested during a prostitution sting in Polk
  • 30 of those arrested from Polk County
  • Seven solicited or intended to have sex with kids

The operation aimed to identify and help victims of human trafficking who might be forced into prostitution.

Fifty-three people were arrested for prostitution and 46 people were arrested for seeking the services of a prostitute, according to authorities.  Eighteen people were arrested for various other charges such as aiding, transporting and deriving proceeds from prostitution.

Detectives also said five people arrested intended to have sex with children and two others solicited sex from who they thought were children online.

Here are some other facts about the case the sheriff’s office released: 

• 30 of those arrested told detectives that they were married. One man said he was engaged to be married.
• Detectives charged those arrested with a total of 78 felonies and 148 misdemeanors.
• Criminal histories of everyone arrested included 443 previous felonies and 571 previous misdemeanors. Some of the prior histories include charges for kidnapping, robbery, aggravated battery, ad sex offenses.
• 7 of the arrested were from other states (Hartsfield, SC; Williamsburg, MO; Conyers, GA; Victoria, TX; Easton, PA; New York, NY; Philadelphia, PA) and one person was visiting from Ontario, Canada.
• 30 were from Polk County.
• 18 receive government assistance.
• Detectives seized cocaine, heroin, Xanax, methamphetamine, hydrocodone, marijuana, marijuana resin, and prescription drugs from those arrested during the operation.
• The oldest person arrested was 70 years old, while the youngest was 19 years old (4).
Of the seven men arrested for preying on children, five of them traveled to the operation location with the intent to sexually batter a child. The two men who did not travel to the operation were located and arrested. They were both charged with Using a Computer to Seduce/Lure a Child (F3) and Use of 2-Way Communication Device to Commit a Felony (F3).

Detectives said seven women who came to the undercover operation location to commit prostitution may be victims of human trafficking. Two of those women were taken to shelters and introduced to anti-trafficking organizations for assistance and support.

The seven child predators are:
Anthony Gavin, 33, of Davenport – He thought he was chatting online with a 14-year-old boy when he said, “I don’t wanna be labeled a pedophile.” Gavin brought condoms to the location and when he was arrested, he told detectives that he was there, “because I’m stupid.”

Pierre Alvarez, 21, of Davenport – He believed he was communicating online with a 12-year-old girl. He sent nude photos of himself and discussed what he would like to do to the girl. Alvarez rode his bicycle to meet the girl and had a condom in his pocket when he was arrested.

Demitrus Gonzalez, 26, of Davenport – He contacted an undercover detective, thinking that he was chatting with a 14-year-old boy. Gonzalez drove to the operation and brought lubricant, condoms, and Xanax with him. While being arrested, he bit a Lakeland Police Officer on the hand.

Joshua Bryant, 23, from Brandon, FL – He thought he was talking to a 14-year-old boy online and sent three nude photos and tried to arrange to pick up the boy. Bryant told the boy to sneak out of the house and he would hide the boy at his house when he was reported missing. After arriving at the location, Bryant got suspicious and collided with an undercover vehicle as he was trying to drive away.

Benjamin Castaneda, 24, from Orlando, FL – He made contact with what he thought was a 13-year-old girl online. In his texts, Castaneda wasted no time telling the undercover detective what he wanted to do with the girl. He drove to the location and arrived less than two hours after making initial contact and was arrested.

Matthew Minardi, 22, from Palm Harbor, FL – He began a sexually explicit conversation via social media with who he thought were two different 13-year-old girls, but both were actually undercover detectives. Minardi also sent a nude image of himself. He did not travel to the operation location, but was located and arrested by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office

William Stemmermann, 53, from Kissimmee, chatted with and called an undercover detective, thinking she was a 13-year-old girl. He attempted to arrange to meet and requested photos to be sent to him. Stemmermann did not travel to the operation location but was located and arrested in Kissimmee.

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