|IT Based Tactics||✓|
Marion County is a county of approximately 386,000 residents, located in central Florida. Ocala is the county seat and largest city. Prostitution has posed considerable problems in Ocala and the surrounding areas for several decades, and has included cases of sex trafficking of minors.
In addition to supporting city-level efforts to reduce commercial sex activity, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office has at times staged sting operations at undisclosed locations within the county. In July 2001, for example, MCSO deputies partnered with the Ocala Police Department to conduct two stings targeting sex buyers — one within the city proper (led by the OPD), and another outside the city’s limits (led by the MCSO). In 2014 and 2015, MCSO officers conducted two web-based stings targeting sex buyers and women offering acts of prostitution. The locations of the stings were not disclosed. Following both operations, the names of any other identifying information about the arrestees were publicized in the press.
Identity disclosure and loss of employment are consequences of buying sex that has occurred within the city. For example, a Marion County sheriff’s deputy was arrested in July 2009, on charges of soliciting prostitution in Orange County and resigned one week after his arrest. An Internal Affairs investigation determined that this was not the first time the deputy had solicited prostitution. In his resignation letter addressed to the Marion County Sheriff, the sex buyer wrote that “this incident has brought great shame and dishonor to my family, the Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and the U.S. Army.” The former deputy stated: he resigned “to avoid any further embarrassment, dishonor, and shame to my family first and foremost and this agency.” The man was a member of the National Guard and a former U.S. Army service member. He was booked into the jail in Orange County and later released on a $250 bond.
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “Ocala; Area Law Enforcement Agencies Arrested 28 People during Two Separate Prostitution Stings Last Friday…,” Ocala Star-Banner, July 27 2001.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “23 Arrested during Online Prostitution Sting,” Ocala Star Banner, June 17 2014.
- “Central Florida Prostitution Sting Nets 23 Arrests,” NBC/WVTM-TV 13, June 17 2014.
- “Fessenden Teacher out of Classroom Pending Investigation of Prostitution Arrest,” Ocala Star Banner, August 25 2015.
- “Marion County Teacher Arrested in Prostitution Sting,” FOX/WOGX-TV 51, August 27 2015.
Sex Buyer Fired or Resigned Due to Arrest:
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: