92 arrested in Polk County prostitution sting - FOX 13 News

92 arrested in Polk County prostitution sting

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LAKELAND (FOX 13) -

A youth minister from California and man on his honeymoon are among 92 people arrested in a Polk County prostitution investigation, the Polk County Sheriff's Office said Monday.

The arrests happened during a four-day period last week.

Undercover detectives targeted people who they say were going online to buy and sell sex.

Of the 92 suspects arrested:

  • 12 suspects were pimps
  • 39 suspects arrested were prostitutes
  • 39 suspects arrested were soliciting sex from prostitutes
  • 2 others were arrested when they accompanied suspects to the location for other charges.

According to the Polk County Sheriff's Office, 45-year-old Samuel Yoon responded to an ad and thought he was going to have sex with a 14-year-old girl. Detectives say Yoon is a youth minister from California who was attending a youth ministry conference in Orlando.

"Samuel Yoon was in Orlando where he was not only attending a youth minister conference. He was one of the speakers at the youth minister conference. He showed up to the undercover location not to have sex with an adult -- he thought he was going to have sex with a 14-year-old child. We have notified the church. I'm worried there may be victims in California," Judd said.

Detectives say 48-year-old Michael Kempfer of Orlando was arrested when he brought a 15-year-old girl to the undercover location as a prostitute.

At least two different married men were arrested. Each one of their wives called to report the missing when they didn't return, the sheriff's office said. One of the men, 21-year-old Mohammed Ahmed of Illinois, was on his honeymoon in Orlando.

The suspects face a wide range of prostitution-related charges.

Judd the website many of the suspects used will get a closer look from detectives.

"It's a promise, Backpage, you are going to be criminally investigated. And so are the people that are in charge of the organization. And after all, Backpage, we do air condition our county jail here in Florida in the summer and we heat it when it's necessary in the winter. Because some of you all may very well be visiting with us," he said.

From FOX 13's Anthony Miller:

They all come from different walks of life and investigators say they all came to Polk County to either pay for sex or offer sexual acts for cash.

When last week's four-day sting operation was complete, 92 people had been arrested by Polk County Sheriff Deputies.

"If you come here to violate the law we're going to put you in jail," said Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd.

Some of the stories are hard to believe, like the prostitution solicitation arrest of 21-year-old Mohammed Ahmed.

"He was in Orlando from Chicago on his honeymoon," said Judd.

Deputies say his new wife reported him missing when he didn't come back to the Orlando area hotel they where they were staying.

Investigators say Rachel Marie Wright came with a pocket full of cash but left something much more valuable in the car.

"Rachel had her brother come with her to the location so that he could babysit her 2-year-old child while she came upstairs in the hotel to turn the trick," said Judd.

Meanwhile, Samuel Yoon was a youth pastor in Orlando for a convention.

"He showed up to the undercover location not to have sex with an adult he thought he was going to have sex with a 14-year-old child," Judd said.

Investigators say most of the interactions that led to all these arrests were set up on Backpage.com, a site that describes itself as a "classified site."

Judd says it exists for a different reason.

"Backpage is facilitating prostitution," Judd said.

Judd says the next step in this operation is launching a criminal investigation into the site.

"We should care about the human suffering, we should care about the human trafficking we should care that there are pimps using their service, we should care that there are prostitutes using their service and they're making millions of dollars as a result of that," said Judd.

Backpage.com's terms of use page states that users cannot: "post any solicitation directly or in coded fashion for any illegal service exchanging sexual favors for money or other valuable consideration."

They also warn against human trafficking and the exploitation of children.

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