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Melbourne is a city in Brevard County, with a population of approximately 85,000 residents. It is located near Palm Bay, on the central Atlantic coast of Florida. Prostitution and sex trafficking cases in the county date back decades and have generated many crimes, such as assault, homicide, robbery, weapons and drug offenses, and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). For example, in 1988, construction workers paving a street west of Melbourne found a woman’s body. She was later identified as a 22-year-old prostituted woman. DNA evidence from a cigarette butt near the crime scene linked a suspect to the murder. The suspect eventually confessed, allegedly telling police that he was angry because the prostituted woman supposedly tried “to rip him off” after they drove to a remote area for commercial sex. The cause of death was drowning — she was found face down in the water — but had suffered other injuries, including being impaled by two survey stakes. In July 2022, two people were arrested and held in the Brevard County jail; they were accused of lewd and lascivious acts and sex trafficking. Investigators said that three girls under the age of 18 were recruited online and paid for sexual acts — acts that were recorded on video. These residents of Vero Beach and Palm Bay both faced charges of lewd and lascivious battery, human trafficking, and “use of a child in sexual performance.” The minors were first solicited through Instagram and other social media sites. The men asked for sex acts and video recordings, which led to obtaining the acts of commercial sexual exploitation and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). The suspects rented hotels for the crimes in Melbourne and Palm Bay. The investigation started in early 2022, based on a report of the potential victimization of a juvenile resident at a group home. The Seminole County Sheriff’s Office discovered videos on the child’s phone that contained CSAM.
To combat the consumer-level demand that drives the sex trade – and all its ancillary crimes – Melbourne police began conducting reverse stings in 1986. Also, in 1986, police began releasing the names of those arrested for solicitation of prostitution. Joint and reverse sting operations are conducted periodically, driven in part by community complaints to police about prostitution. For example, in 2011, Melbourne police arrested four people as part of a sting targeting sex buyers. The four men all faced charges of solicitation for prostitution, and one also was charged with possession of cocaine, possession of oxycodone, possession of alprazolam, and possession of drug paraphernalia. The arrests happened in the south end of the city near the U.S. Highway 1 corridor and in the north end around U.S. 1 and Aurora Road. An operation in December 2012 produced the arrest of one prostituted woman and three male sex buyers. Following the arrests, their identities were publicized in local media outlets. A reverse sting in June 2019 was conducted in response to community complaints about prostitution and related problems in south Melbourne (the complaints reportedly described “a constant stream of prostitutes” within the Riverview Park vicinity). Street-level stings in August 2020, March 2021, and May 2022 each produced the arrest of multiple sex buyers, and their identities were disclosed in news reports.
Loss of employment as a consequence of buying sex has occurred multiple times in the city. For example, there have been at least two instances of Melbourne police officers being arrested for purchasing sex. An executive with a local nonprofit organization affiliated with the NASA International Space Station was fired for expensing prostitution costs to the organization. In July 2012, a police officer accused of meeting prostituted women for commercial sex while on duty was fired from his position with the Melbourne Police Department. His termination occurred two days after learning of allegations that the officer had sex with at least four prostituted women while on the job. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigated the case and set up surveillance on the officer; they caught him picking up and dropping off prostituted women. In April 2016, authorities said a central Florida police officer was on duty and in uniform when he tried to solicit a prostituted woman, who turned out to be an undercover agent. He was arrested on a prostitution charge when he returned to the police department after patrol. Earlier in his shift, investigators said he had arranged to meet with who he believed to be a prostituted person for sex in exchange for $40. He had already been under investigation after a prostituted woman made similar allegations about the officer four months earlier. He was suspended without pay and eventually was fired. In 2019, federal prosecutors charged a former executive of the Brevard County-based nonprofit that runs the International Space Station’s national laboratory for using government funds to pay for escort services and for falsifying tax returns. The man had served as chief economist for the Center for the Advancement of Science in Space, or CASIS, primarily funded by approximately $15 million annually from NASA. According to a 10-count indictment filed by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Tampa, the man created false receipts and other documents when filing expense reports that hid spending on prostituted women and escorts during trips to Europe and New York between 2011 and 2015. The man resigned from CASIS in 2015 and an investigation was opened by NASA’s Office of the Inspector General, according to NASAWatch.com, saying that his actions were in clear violation of company policies and procedures.
- Melbourne Police Department
- Brevard County Sheriff’s Office
- Florida Department of Law Enforcement
- Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “10 Men Charged with Soliciting Prostitution,” Orlando Sentinel, April 8 1986.
- “Melbourne Police Arrest 8 on Solicitation Charges,” Orlando Sentinel, June 30 1986.
- “Four ‘Johns’ Arrested in Melbourne Prostitution Sting,” Orlando Sentinel, April 30 2011.
- “7 Arrested in Melbourne Reverse Prostitution Bust,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, March 24 2011.
- https://www.wtsp.com/article/news/prostitution-sting-nets-13-arrests/67-387832713 (2011)
- “6 Arrested in Latest Melbourne Sex Sting,” Orlando Sentinel, October 19 2012.
- “Officials: Melbourne Police Officer Arrested after Offering Prostitute $40,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, March 31 2016.
- https://www.floridatoday.com/melbourne-prostitution-sting-nabs-3-suspects-wake-complaints (2019)
- https://www.floridatoday.com/melbourne-prostitution/1455280001/ (2019)
- https://spacecoastdaily.com/melbourne-police-arrest-three-men-for-solicitation-of-prostitution/ (2020)
- https://www.mynews13.com/city-of-melbourne-worker-accused-of-soliciting-sex-in-city-vehicle (2020)
- https://spacecoastdaily.com/melbourne-arrests-three-after-street-level-prostitution-sweep/ (2021)
- https://spacecoastdaily.com/melbourne-police-special-investigations-unit-charges-39-year-old-woman-with-felony-prostitution (2021)
- https://spacecoastdaily.com/melbourne-police-undercover-operation-to-combat-prostitution/ (2022)
- https://spacecoastdaily.com/three-arrested-undercover-prostitution-operation-melbourne/ (2023)
Arrest of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.police1.com/video-uniformed-cop-picks-up-prostitutes (2012)
- “Ex-Cop Accused of Hiring Prostitutes Strikes Plea Deal,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, February 15 2013. (2013)
Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.nydailynews.com/florida-arrested-soliciting-40-prostitute (2012)
- https://www.wtxl.com/uniformed-police-officer-charged-with-soliciting-prostitute (2016)
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-ne-international-space-station-lab-exec-indicted (2019)
Background on Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related CSAM in the Area:
- “Man Jailed in Classified-Ad Sex Scheme,” Orlando Sentinel, April 23 1986.
- “Men Posing as Federal Agents Targeting Prostitutes,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, March 28 2006.
- “9 Jailed in Brevard County Prostitution Sting,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, August 30 2007.
- “Prostitutes Accuse Cop of Trading Freedom for Sex,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, December 9 2008.
- “Melbourne Police Arrest 5 in Prostitution Bust,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, April 25 2012.
- “Melbourne Cop Accused of Sex with Prostitutes while On Duty,” ABC/WFTV-TV 9, June 6 2012.
- “Police: Four Arrested in Melbourne Prostitution Sting,” Florida Today, December 13 2012.
- “Melbourne Prostitution Sting Nets 3 Arrests,” Florida Today, January 4 2013.
- https://www.wftv.com/man-40-accused-of-trafficking-women-for-sex-in-west-melbourne/ (2017)
- https://spacecoastdaily.com/melbourne-police-arrests-three-women-operation-targeting-prostitution/ (2020)
- https://www.wesh.com/human-trafficking-arrests-brevard (2022)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: