Disney employees, judge arrested in human trafficking sting
Four Disney employees and a former US judge have been arrested in an undercover human trafficking operation in Florida.
Authorities said 108 people had been arrested at the end of a six-day sting targeting alleged child sexual predators, traffickers and prostitution.
Police released details about the operation, dubbed March Sadness 2, on Thursday (Australian time), revealing the plethora of charges.
The operation, which began on March 8, targeted online prostitution advertisements posted on websites and social media platforms, with the intent to identify trafficking victims being forced into prostitution, and the people seeking them out.
Authorities also identified suspects who they believed were inappropriately communicating with underage children.
Undercover detectives communicated online with the suspects before arresting them at arranged meet-ups, authorities said.
Polk County Sheriff’s Office in Florida said it sought to “identify and free any victims who were being forced into prostitution” during the sting, “or anyone participating in the trafficking of victims”.
Officials identified the four Disney employees arrested. One was taken into custody after sending inappropriate photos and messages to an undercover officer pretending to be a 14-year-old girl.
Xavier Jackson, 27, was charged with three counts of transmitting harmful material to a minor and one count of unlawful communication.
The three other Walt Disney employees were arrested for allegedly attempting to solicit a prostitute.
Disney has denied one of the suspects was on its payroll, while placing the others, including Mr Jackson, on unpaid leave, according to US media,
Meanwhile, a former Illinois judge was also charged with soliciting a prostitute.
Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said a human trafficker and four child predators were among those arrested, labelling them “dangerous people”.
“We protected some little girl someplace that was groomed or potentially groomed by these evil, deviant criminals, thugs, that’s all they are,” he said.
“Where there is prostitution, there is exploitation, disease, dysfunction and broken families.
“The online prostitution industry enables traffickers and victimises those who are being trafficked. Our goal is to identify victims, offer them help, and find and arrest those who are profiting from the exploitation of human beings.”
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