85 arrested in Hillsborough County human trafficking sting

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HILLSBOROUGH COUNTY, Fla. (WCJB)-- 85 people have now been charged as part of “Operation Trade Secrets,” a human trafficking sting conducted by the Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office, according to a report from ABC Action News.

"Human trafficking can happen in any community and to victims of any age, race or nationality, as our detectives have seen throughout the course of this investigation," said Sheriff Chad Chronister.

Undercover deputies were used to target internet activities, hotels and motels, sex trade activities, spa and massage parlors, and strip clubs from January 1 through June 7, 2019.

Sheriff Chronister vowed to continue the operation as long as human trafficking exists in Tampa Bay.

"Our message for anyone involved with the despicable practice of human trafficking— stop— because we’re coming for you," Sheriff Chronister said.

The sheriff said these operations are more important than ever with big sporting events like WrestleMania and the Super Bowl coming to Tampa.

Among those arrested, only one person, Marcell Walsh, was charged with human trafficking. He was accused of forcing a 24-year-old woman into prostitution.

The remaining 84 arrests are alleged Johns and prostitutes.

If you or someone you know is involved with human trafficking and needs help, free services are available. Just call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1 (888) 373-7888.