Sheriff Chad Chronister says a new Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office human trafficking task force completed their first undercover sting operation, resulting in 125 arrests.
The 20-day sting, dubbed ‘Operation Round-Up,’ also resulted in freeing four women and one teenager from the trafficking industry, Chronister said. Two of the 125 suspects were identified as 38-year-old Joel Velasco, a former teacher at Hillsborough County Public School District and 44-year-old Samuel Phillips Jr., who is a pastor at the Be Limitless Church.
According to WFTS News in Tampa Bay, Velasco is a former teacher at Hillsborough County Public Schools. The school district said that Velasco was not on the school’s campus this year as he resigned before the school year started, WFTS reported.
During a press conference on Monday, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said both Velasco and Phillips Jr. offered to pay undercover detectives for sex, believing that they were talking to females.
“These men who were all held to a standard of trust and respect were all arrested for soliciting another to commit prostitution,” Chronister said in regard to Velasco and Phillips Jr. “Individuals who make a conscious choice and effort to take advantage of others through human trafficking have no room in Hillsborough County,” Chronister went onto say.
ARTICLE: PAUL MURDOCH
MANAGING EDITOR: CARSON CHOATE
PHOTO CREDITS: ZENGER NEWS
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