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SHERIFF: 44 prostitutes, pimps & drivers busted!

11:25 PM, Aug 23, 2010   |    comments
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Video: 11 p.m.: 44 prostitutes, pimps and drivers busted!

Undercover deputies take into custody one of 44 people arrested in a prostitution sting.
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Winter Haven, Florida - One woman was five months pregnant.  Another woman admitted to having an STD. Six of the women were married. One of them was as young as 17.

Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd says he's shocked by what he saw during a four-day undercover operation carried out by his vice unit at an upscale home in the county.

Undercover deputies answered online ads for prostitutes, asking the women to meet them at the house.

"This amazed me," he admitted during a press conference Monday afternoon. "I've done many undercover operations, but I can't believe some of the things I saw."

In all, 44 people were arrested - prostitutes, pimps and drivers among them.  The ladies usually charged between $200 and $400 per "trick." Some of them came in from states like North Carolina, Ohio, Maryland, Indiana and Oklahoma.

"They said business was slow in other states," Judd told the media.

The undercover sting was called, "Operation Take 2." 

The title for the operation came from a previous undercover sting.   The vice unit rented a home in Polk County for a child predator take-down the week before.

This was the second part of the operation, only this time it was targeting prostitutes.

The Sheriff's team specifically targeted websites - and craigslist - as the offenders.

"[The websites] need to be responsible corporate citizens and not promote this sort of thing," Judd said.

The oldest person arrested was a 77-year-old man who Judd said was acting as a pimp for one woman.  The man gave her a ride the home and just happened to be a registered sexual offender.

"This is like slavery.  It is not a victimless crime," Judd admits.

One young man who showed up actually drove his mother to the scene. And, yet another one asked, "Can I bring my 8-month-old baby with us?"

"They bring their entire lives into this," Judd told us.

Ironically, 35 of the women told the undercover deputies they would not come to the home because it was in Polk County.

"They're getting the message not to bring this into our county," said Judd.

He also talked about the websites involved in this sting.

"I challenge Backpage and Craigslist to stop this conduct now," Judd said. "We're going to look into backpage.  They make Craigslist look tame."

The Sheriff says he's especially proud of the men and women who go undercover. His vice unit worked countless hours during the lengthy operation, often until the wee hours of the morning, only to wake up and do it all over again the next day.

"They do a phenomenal job," Judd said, "They are incredibly good, and I'm proud.  They have to pretend to be someone they're not."

Melanie Brooks, 10 News

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