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Sunday, May 20, 2018
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Polk undercover prostitution sting nets 98 arrests

A four-day Polk County undercover prostitution investigation last week has yielded 98 arrests, including two potential cases of human trafficking.

The investigation, from Thursday-Sunday, targeted online sites where the subjects either posted or answered ads relating to prostitution.

According to deputies, 24 of those arrested are married, 15 are on public assistance, 52 were “johns” or those who wished to pay for sex from prostitutes, and 64 of those arrested have been arrested more than over 448 times before.

Included among the arrests:

♦ Michael Johnson, 44, a former Orlando police officer;

♦ Frank Portlock, 56, a co-owner of the Chevrolet Center in Winter Haven;

♦ Yuval Barak, 36, of Nanuet, N,Y., a registered sex offender resulting from a New York arrest for statutory rape of a 14-year-old.

“Prostitution is not a victimless crime,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said. “We have found a direct nexus between prostitution and human trafficking — forcing a juvenile to commit lewd acts with adult men for financial gain is something we will not tolerate. One of our best tools to find, arrest, and prosecute traffickers is to conduct undercover prostitution investigations.

“Whether it is on the street or online, prostitution, and the crimes it attempts to disguise, is illegal and we will continue to investigate and arrest those involved.”

Of the 28 prostitutes arrested, 20 had criminal records that included 233 arrests comprising 112 felonies and 165 misdemeanors.

“We’ve seen firsthand the negative social costs of how prostitution hurts families, children, and communities, including the spreading of infectious diseases,” Judd said. “And more often than not, there is a high correlation between crime — illegal drugs, violent crime and property crime — and prostitution, and we see repeat criminal offenders engaging in sex for money.”

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