Lake County, FL

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Lake County is located in north-central Florida and has roughly 396,000 residents. Its county seat is the city of Tavares, and its largest city is Clermont. Prostitution and domestic minor sex trafficking have been reported in the county, which includes the city of Leesburg. For example, in April 2014 an undercover operation resulted in the rescue of a 14-year-old victim of human trafficking and the arrests of 44 alleged prostituted persons, pimps, and sex buyers. The suspected trafficker was accused of abducting the 14-year-old from a gas station, trying to force her to be sexually abused by a man for money at an Orlando home, and raping her before taking her to the motel where he thought another buyer awaited, according to an arrest affidavit. In April 2014, the task force was also investigating an estimated 10 possible human trafficking cases in the county. The county also has had numerous homicides of prostituted women dating back to the early 1990s, which have been investigated as potential serial murders.

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response.  For example, in April 2014, the Lake County Sheriff’s Office (LCSO) conducted a large-scale reversal resulting in the arrest of 24 sex buyers (and 20 prostituted women). Over the course of several days, LCSO deputies “set up outside an undisclosed hotel, where men willing to pay for sex and women offering sex for money showed up at the designated hotel room.” During the course of the investigation, officers recovered a 14-year-old female who had previously been kidnapped from an Orange County gas station and trafficked into prostitution by an adult male trafficker. The LCSO released the names (and in this case, arrest photos) of all individuals intercepted during the sting.

In August 2018, sheriff’s detectives arrested six buyers seeking sex with children during a major prostitution sting that lasted from August 16 to 26. The six men thought they were going to meet a 14-year-old girl for sex at a vacant house in south Lake County, but instead met undercover investigators and were arrested. One man brought alcohol, while others carried condoms and candy. The Lake County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the Florida Department of Law Enforcement and other member agencies of the Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force to conduct the operation.

In addition to reverse stings using police decoys, sex buyers have been arrested for alleged crimes against real victims. For example, in February 2019,  a corrections officer employed at the Lake County Jail was arrested by the Leesburg Police Department and charged with solicitation of prostitution after an investigation that had been ongoing since September 2018. The man was accused of contacting a woman he knew from high school and offering to give her his paycheck in return for sex. She declined the offer. The man continued to be persistent toward the woman and she continued to decline his offers; she eventually notified the police department and an investigation into the matter began. Officers looked into the man’s Snapchat account and found that he had been sending messages to the woman soliciting sex. He was arrested and was suspended from his job and then terminated from his position at the jail following termination hearings.

In July 2022, a Lake County Sheriff’s Deputy was arrested and charged with “soliciting a prostitute” after a confidential source contacted the LCSO to report a friend was being paid by a deputy for sex. Detectives launched an investigation and found the 40-year-old woman who claimed to have been solicited by the deputy, explaining they met when he responded to a domestic dispute. The woman and the deputy exchanged phone numbers during the call for service, and two days later, the woman received an unsolicited nude photo from him. He asked her if she wanted to “hang out” and she agreed. He picked her up and then paid her $80 for sex. The woman said the deputy allegedly paid her for sex on at least two other occasions. When questioned by detectives, the deputy admitted to having sex with the woman, but said he only gave her money for food and denied ever having sex with her while he was on duty. The man’s identity was released to the press. In April, 2023 the man was adjudicated guilty of disorderly conduct and placed on six months probation. He was ordered to pay a $500 fine and mandatory court costs, and was also ordered to relinquish his law enforcement certification. Loss of the certification means that his law enforcement career is over in Florida.

Key Partners

  • Lake County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure, Employment Loss:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Florida
Type County
Population 395804
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