Seminole County, FL
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Seminole County is a county of over 471,000 residents, located within the Greater Orlando Metropolitan Area in Central Florida. Its county seat and largest city is Sanford, FL. Similar to its neighboring Orange County, prostitution and sex trafficking have been persistent problems in the area and generate complaints from residents. Additionally, cases of sex trafficking of adults and minors have been investigated at the county and local levels.
To address these issues, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office has conducted reverse stings to identify and apprehend sex buyers. Several cities within the county, such as Sanford and Melbourne have conducted reverse stings, often in collaboration with the county Sheriff’s office and supported by the county District Attorney’s office. For example, in September 2013, 14 people were arrested in an undercover prostitution sting in Seminole County. The department’s Neighborhood Response Unit targeted known prostituted persons within the city, which led to five arrests. The city and county investigative bureau then placed an undercover female officer in the area where the prostituted women were working targeting male sex buyers. As a result of the reverse sting operation, nine male sex buyers were arrested in a single night. Arrested sex buyers varied in age from 19 to 53, and their identities were publicly disclosed. The charges they faced included solicitation of prostitution, possession of drugs and drug paraphernalia, and destruction of evidence.
In 2013, the Seminole County Sheriff’s Office led an web-based reverse sting operation targeting individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for sex. As a result of the investigation, over 50 men were arrested for attempting to solicit sex from a minor online, including a teacher from New Smyrna Beach High School. The men varied in age from 19 to 60. “Operation Cardea,” involved 17 agencies throughout Seminole County. According to the SCSO, “Hours and hours of chatting and texting and sending of photographs. Knowing that these suspects ranged in ages 19 to 60. Many were professionals and some jobs that even were dealing with kids. It’s extremely alarming.” One of the arrested sex buyers was a teacher from New Smyrna Beach High School and according to the SCSO, “He teaches English to 9th and 10th graders. He connected up with a mother he said he though was ‘open-minded.’ He negotiating and preparing to have sexual intercourse with a 14-year-old female. He sent us his actual photograph and was quoted by saying he has a lot to lose.”
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the county. For example, in February 2015, a Hagerty High School dean, employed by Seminole County Public Schools, was placed on administrative leave after he was arrested for soliciting prostitution in Orlando, police said. The man was charged with soliciting prostitution and entering/remaining in place for prostitution after he was caught in an undercover sting. His identity was disclosed by both the county’s school district and the sheriff’s office. According to an arrest affidavit, he contacted two women over the Internet and thought he was meeting up with two prostituted women at a hotel. However, the two women were police officers working an undercover sting. The man had become a teacher in July 2005 and then a dean in February 2014. He was also the High School’s head football coach for eight years, and coached boys and girls weightlifting.
- Seminole County Sheriff’s Office
- Seminole County District Attorney’s Office
- Sanford Police Department
- City-County Investigation Bureau
Reverse Stings, Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.wftv.com/sanford-police-arrest-7-prostitution-sting/ (2011)
- http://www.cbsnews.com/operation-cardea-50-people-arrested-in-florida-online-child-sex-sting (2013)
- https://www.wftv.com/50-charged-central-florida-child-predator-sting/ (2013)
- https://www.mynews13.com/50_arrested_in sting (2013)
- http://articles.orlandosentinel.com/2013-charges-prostitution-sting-sanford-police (2013)
- https://www.baynews9.com/fl/tampa/fourteen_arrested_in (2013)
- https://www.mynews13.com/police_man_arrested prostitution offered chicken dinner (2014)
Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.clickorlando.com/hagerty-high-school-dean-arrested-on-soliciting-prostitution-charges (2015)
- https://www.wesh.com/hagerty-high-school-dean-charged-with-soliciting-a-prostitute/ (2015)
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-william-gierke-soliciting-prostitution (2015)
- https://iontb.com/seminole-lawyer-spends-clients-settlement-money-drugs-prostitution-pornography-over-800000/ (2023)
Background on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in the Area:
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/ (1988)
- https://www.wftv.com/seminole-deputies-arrest-5-undercover-prostitution (2015)
- https://www.clickorlando.com/backpagecom-ad-led-to-prostitution-bust-seminole-deputies-say/ (2015)
- https://www.nydailynews.com/4-fla-high-school-staff-busted-year-sex-charges (2015)
- https://www.news4jax.com/seminole-county-teacher-accused-of-having-sex-with-student-at-school/ (2017)
- https://floridapolitics.com/suspect-venmo-payments-to-women-150-times/ (2021)
- https://floridapolitics.com/feds-turn-to-whos-next-joel-greenberg-pleads-guilty-to-sex-trafficking-of-a-child/ (2021)
- https://www.orlandosentinel.com/os-ne-joel-greenberg-plea-agreement (2021)
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