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Orange County is an area in central Florida with a population of roughly 1,430,000. The major population center of the county is Orlando, and it covers unincorporated areas and smaller cities. Prostitution is related to numerous problems in the county, including child sex trafficking. For example, in February 2022, the Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation arrested three people accused of sex trafficking three girls, ages 15 and 16, between February 2021 and July 2021 at multiple locations throughout Orange County. All three were charged with the human trafficking of a child under 18 for commercial sex. The victims were at-risk youth who were either runaways or in foster care. The MBI began investigating in July 2021 when a 15-year-old runaway was found at Dr. Phillips Hospital, telling authorities she had been battered. An investigation determined human trafficking was taking place and led to the trafficking suspects. The offenders had compelled a 15-year-old girl and at least two other teens into engaging in similar acts. One defendant would supply the women with drugs and transportation and, at one point, raped one of the victims. Investigators say the local hotels where the teens were trafficked include hotels on West Colonial, off Adanson Street, and on Jamaican Court in the tourism district. According to the arrest affidavit, whenever the teen victims refused to engage in sex acts with men, the offenders would force them to consume alcohol or drugs and, on at least one occasion, held a hotel door shut when one of the victims tried to leave. This went on for several months, during which the three juvenile victims were compelled to have sex with adult males numerous times per day.
In addition to such sex trafficking, the county has also been the site of violence related to prostitution. For example, in 1999, at least two prostituted women were assaulted by the same person, including one who suffered collapsed lungs, pelvic and rib fractures, and internal injuries when she was thrown from a pickup and run over on an interstate highway. A serial rapist specifically targeted prostituted women in the county over a four-month period in 2012. In another assault, an escort bit and “nearly severed” the penis of a sex buyer in 2013 in Orlando and was charged with attempted homicide. In October 2022, a 16-year-old girl who was found shot to death in Pine Hills was linked to a human trafficking investigation. Deputies said she had been missing two months before she was found murdered; she was allegedly a victim of sex trafficking.
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. Demand reduction tactics used in the county include reverse stings and the disclosure of sex buyer identities. For example, in May 2012, police conducted a five-day web-based sting which resulted in 76 arrests. In 2007, police began using cameras and decoys to gather evidence against male sex buyers—the identities of arrestees were released to the media.
Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys. For example, in July 2019, a former Lake Worth Beach High School teacher was arrested in Orange County for trying to arrange sex with a 10-year-old girl. A confidential informant had contacted Orange County Sheriff’s Office deputies and claimed he/she had information regarding a sexual predator. The informant admitted they were engaging in acts of prostitution and that they had a regular prostitution customer who had recently told the informant that he was seeking a 10-year-old female for sexual intercourse. The informant told investigators that he/she made him think the informant had access to juvenile females he could engage with in acts of prostitution. The informant provided deputies with the phone number commonly used by the suspect and screenshots of a text message conversation between the informant and that phone number. The informant later introduced the suspect to a law enforcement agent (via a phone call), posing as a mother willing to offer her 11-year-old daughter to engage in sexual acts for money. The man agreed to pay the agent $100 for an hour with who he believed to be the agent’s daughter. He agreed to meet at a location on S. Orange Blossom Trail, where he was arrested. The man was already on sex offender probation after trying to arrange sex with a 12-year-old girl in 2011 through an undercover officer in Palm Beach County posing as the child’s mother. He had been sentenced to five years in prison and another five years on probation for that crime.
Loss of employment is another consequence of buying sex that has occurred multiple times in Orange County. For example, in May 2008, a veteran Orange County sheriff’s supervisor resigned amid allegations that he had solicited a prostituted person while on the job. The Commander submitted his resignation letter to the Sheriff four days after the agency placed him on paid leave for the alleged misconduct. He had served with the Orange County Sheriff’s Office for 28 years and, most recently, was the night-watch commander, overseeing over 100 deputies and acting as the sheriff’s spokesman during overnight breaking-news events. The man had been put on leave after the agency received “allegations of inappropriate relations with a prostitute” while on duty in his agency car. The specifics of the allegations against the Commander — including when they were received and by whom — were not initially released to the public. It was also unclear whether the prostituted woman came forward or the allegations surfaced in some other way. The Sheriff’s Office is prohibited by law from releasing information about an ongoing internal investigation until action is taken or the case is dropped. The 2008 resignation was not the first local law-enforcement officer to have resigned after allegations of soliciting a prostitute. In June 2006, an Orange County Deputy was caught drunk with a woman whom Orlando police thought to be a prostituted person on a city street. He was placed on light duty and resigned in September of that year. He served eight months of probation after he pleaded no contest to “soliciting a prostitute,” according to the Orange County clerk of courts.
In April, 2023, another 18 male sex buyers were arrested in an Orange County reverse sting. Each man was charged with a misdemeanor, and their photos and identifiers were included in news reports.
- Orange County Sheriff’s Office
- Orlando Police Department
- Metropolitan Bureau of Investigation
- “Metro”, Orlando Sentinel, November 1 1987.
- “Vice, Cops Compete for Street Hustle Harder on Trail”, Orlando Sentinel, September 16 2001.
- “Orlando, Orange County Prostitution Sting Nets 42 People”, West Orlando News, November 5 2012.
- https://www.orlando-news.com/2023/04/28/prostitution-sting-results-in-18-arrests-in-orange-county/ (2018)
Web-Based Reverse Sting, Disclosure of Identities:
Loss of Employment:
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/prostitute (2008)
- https://www.wptv.com/former-lake-worth-high-school-teacher-arrested-on-child-sex-charges (2019)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Man Charged in Prostitution Ring for Executives”, Orlando Sentinel, May 4 1985.
- “Man Charged with Forcing 16-Year-Old into Prostitution”, Orlando Sentinel, July 5 1985.
- “56-Year-Old Man Charged with Buying Sex from Girls”, Orlando Sentinel, May 20 1994.
- “5 Men Arrested in Child-Sex Case; Police Say Several of the Suspects Used 2 Young Orange County Girls as Prostitutes”, Orlando Sentinel, January 28 2006.
- “Cops: Teen Kidnapped, Held as Sex Slave”, Orlando Sentinel, August 14 2009.
- “Craigslist Prostitution Sting Yields 10 Arrests, Investigation”, Orlando Sentinel, November 8 2009.
- “Cops: Man Tried to Sell Girl, 15, for Sex”, Orlando Sentinel, December 23 2009.
- “Woman Tells Orange Deputies: I Was Forced into Prostitution”, Orlando Sentinel, August 17 2010.
- “Man Accused of Having Sex with Teen”, Orlando Sentinel, March 6 2012.
- “Teen Runaway: I Was Locked in a Van, Forced to Have Sex with Bar Patrons”, Orlando Sentinel, May 22 2013.
- “Ten Arrested in Alleged Orlando Prostitution Ring”, FOX/WOFL-TV 35, June 4 2014.
- “Bloods Gang Members Found Guilty of Sex Trafficking a 14-Year-Old Girl in Orange County”, Orlando Sentinel, September 9 2014.
- https://www.tcpalm.com/florida-human-sex-trafficking-ring-full-story/ (2019)
- https://www.nytimes.com/-kraft-trafficking-florida (2019)
- https://www.wmfe.org/will-closing-massage-parlors-and-spas-curb-sex-trafficking-prostitution (2019)
- https://www.tcpalm.com/florida-prostitution-ring-orlando-area-spas-vero-beach-human-trafficking (2019)
- https://www.mynews13.com/central-florida-campaign-aims-to-end-human-trafficking (2020)
- https://www.mynews13.com/human-traffic-survivor-works-to-save-others (2021)
- https://tampa.cbslocal.com/florida-man-faces-life-in-prison-for-forced-prostitution/ (2021)
- https://www.wesh.com/sex-trafficking-teenaged-girls-orange-county (2022)
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-ne-mbi-sex-trafficking-arrests (2022)
- http://www.myfloridalegal.com/newsrel.nsf/newsreleases/ (2022)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Similar Truck Involved in Assault on Another Prostitute”, Orlando Sentinel, September 18 1999.
- “Report: Prostitute Stabbed 50 Times”, Orlando Sentinel, August 7 2003.
- “Woman’s Killer Sentenced to Life in Jail; The Man Stabbed the Victim about 50 Times When She Tried to Run Away after an Argument”, Orlando Sentinel, January 30 2004.
- “Man Won’t Be Charged in Pimp’s Death”, Orlando Sentinel, October 18 2007.
- “Man Suspected in Series of Attacks, Rapes on Prostitutes”, Orlando Sentinel, January 10 2012.
- “Orlando Prostitute Bites Off Man’s Penis, Charged with Attempted Murder”, United Press International, March 21 2013.
- “Body of Transgender Prostitute Found”, Orlando Sentinel, April 5 2013.
- “Ten Arrested in Alleged Orlando Prostitution Ring”, FOX/WOFL-TV 35, June 4 2014.
- “Orange County Deputies Arrest Man in Kidnapping, Attempted Rape; Woman Jumped from Man’s SUV, Nearly Raped, Cops Say,” CBS/WKMG-TV 6, June 8 2015.
- https://news.yahoo.com/human-trafficking-still-huge-problem (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “County Putting More Criminals to Work”, Miami Herald, August 23 1982.
- “Prostitution Arrests”, Orlando Sentinel, January 30 1988.
- “‘I Turned Down Block by Mistake’; The Men Arrested Have a Difficult Time Trying to Explain Why They Would Risk Everything”, Orlando Sentinel, June 25 1995.
- “FHP Fires Trooper over Frequent Stops on Trail”, Orlando Sentinel, November 7 1998.
- “Operation Vice Grip Targets Hookers”, Orlando Sentinel, January 29 2000.
- “Orange Makes It Tougher to Shut Down Adult-Entertainment Clubs”, Orlando Sentinel, September 25 2002.
- “2nd Woman Jailed in Massage Case; Former Orange County Resident Arrested on Prostitution-Related Charges”, Orlando Sentinel, April 11 2007.
- “Man Pleads Guilty in Escort Case”, Orlando Sentinel, January 31 2008.