170 people charged in Tallahassee child sex trafficking network

A two-year investigation by the Tallahassee Police Department into the horrific sexual exploitation of a young teenage girl netted a staggering amount of arrests — with more than 170 people charged over recent months.

On Tuesday, TPD Chief Lawrence Revell and state and federal officials announced results of Operation Stolen Innocence, a highly secretive investigation into the commercial sex trafficking of the girl, who was 13 and 14 when the alleged offenses occurred.

The investigation, which police officials declined to even acknowledge for months, was likely the biggest of its kind in Tallahassee history, Revell said.

Some 106 people were charged with felonies, including human trafficking, lewd and lascivious battery on a child under 16 and production and possession of child pornography. Another 72 people were charged with misdemeanors, including solicitation of prostitution.

According to past reporting by the Tallahassee Democrat, the Johns and others swept up in the investigation include a P.E. teacher and a write-in candidate. Others arrested include university and state employees and individuals with criminal records.

Several of the defendants are women, charged with helping to arrange paid “plays” with the girl in exchange for cash.

"I know it's hard to believe that something like this happens here in our community," said Lorena Vollrath-Bueno, felony chief for the State Attorney's Office. "But it does."

The investigation began in late 2018 after investigators spotted the girl in an online sex-for-pay listing. 

TPD’s Special Victims Unit set out to rescue the child, who cooperated in efforts to bring charges against the people who exploited her. Revell praised the police work that yielded the arrests, many of which began in July and ended just days ago.

"The arrests in this operation are the culmination of the diligent work from our dedicated investigators, who have worked tirelessly to bring justice to the victims in this case," he said. "I cannot say enough about the work that you all did and how proud I am of each of you.”

Numerous agencies worked with TPD in the investigation: the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Northern District of Florida, the U.S. Marshal’s Service, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement, the State Attorney’s Office and the Leon County Sheriff’s Office.

U.S. Attorney Larry Keefe vowed to continue going after child sex traffickers. Nearly 20 of the defendants, including some from out of state, face federal charges.

170 people charged in Tallahassee child sex trafficking network 170 people charged in Tallahassee child sex trafficking network Reviewed by Anson Moore on November 17, 2020 Rating: 5

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