Crime & Courts
78 arrested in Polk sting targeting online prostitution ads
A three-day undercover operation targeting online prostitution advertising resulted in the arrest of 78 people, the Polk County Sheriff’s Office said. They come from a range of backgrounds, including computer programmer, microbiologist, retired airline pilot, medical technician, mechanic, restaurant servers. One was slated to graduate from law enforcement school this week. Hometowns included Tampa, Plant City, Thonotosassa, Lakeland, Winter Haven, Orlando, Miami and Fayetteville, N.C. Fourteen were receiving government aid. Eighteen admitted to being married and 31 had criminal arrest histories. Among those Sheriff Grady Judd singled out was Dalavone Keobandith, of Los Angeles, who was charged with possession of marijuana."We were really honored that we had a real life porn star," Judd said about Keobandith. "Now she’s the owner of Asia’s World. She’s been in 174 different porn movies, none of which I can give the names and it be published ..." Judd said one man walked by two other suspects being arrested outside a hotel but still met with the undercover officer in her room - where he opened the blinds to watch the arrests unfold. "They need to be arrested just because they're stupid," Judd said at a news conference. The investigation, which ran from Thursday to Sunday, targeted online e-commerce sites such as Craigslist and backpage.com, on which men and women advertise to commit prostitution and solicit for prostitution. Nine were registered felons and have a combined total of 339 past charges, including armed robbery, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, rape, stalking, and child abuse. Among the felons was Brittany Michelle Dodd, of Lakeland, who was charged with child neglect. Judd said during the investigation deputies discovered her three children were left in the care of men "they likely didn’t know" while their mother traveled to an undercover location to "derive proceeds from prostitution." Subsequently, the children were "dropped off" with a neighbor, and their mother had no idea where they were when we found them, the sheriff’s said. Other charges ranged from solicitation - in which the suspects either posted online ads or answered online ads - to possession of illegal drugs, aiding and abetting, escape, traffic offenses, battery on a law enforcement officer, violation of probation, and failure to register as a sexual offender. "Our message is clear - postitution is illegal and those who commit or who derive proceeds from this crime in Polk County can expect to go to jail," Judd said.