17 Arrested in Human Trafficking Sting Targeting Massage Parlors
In a recent crackdown on human trafficking and illegal sex work, the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office arrested 17 individuals and targeted massage parlors involved in these illicit activities. This operation, aimed at addressing human trafficking concerns, included actions against alleged sex workers and men seeking sexual encounters with minors.
Undercover agents from the sheriff’s office placed online ads offering sex with minors, stating the girls’ ages as under 15 years old. Shockingly, nearly 200 people responded to these ads. In-person arrangements were made with six men who were subsequently arrested after they exchanged money for sexual services, constituting felony charges of engaging in human trafficking labor and traveling to meet a minor. The arrested individuals included Jerome Jeffson, Marckendy Dariste, Edward Aji, Juan Ojeda, Miguel De La Cruz, and Andrew Lang.
Additionally, the investigation extended to massage parlors in the area. Owners and employees of these establishments were charged with “deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution.” The targeted massage parlors included Royal Relaxation, Latin Relaxation, and VIP Sauna. The sheriff’s office also cited VIP Sauna for “numerous business violations” as per Manatee County Code Enforcement.
Ten alleged female sex workers were arrested during the operation, with their ages undisclosed. Furthermore, the sheriff’s office identified one human trafficking victim and is actively seeking information on other potential victims.
Efforts are underway to permanently shut down these businesses, with one operation already terminated. Sun Spa, previously operating in Sarasota, was closed as a result of the operation. In 2019, the Manatee County Commission implemented measures to combat human trafficking in massage parlors, which had been a known issue. These rules mandate that massage employees remain fully clothed and hold licenses, while also prohibiting beds, mattresses, and futons in parlors. Sergeant Jason Powell, the sheriff’s office intelligence unit supervisor, has described these places as “plain and simple houses of prostitution,” emphasizing their longstanding investigations into such establishments.
The joint operation was conducted in collaboration with Crimes Against Children and the Tampa Bay Human Trafficking Task Force, reinforcing the community’s commitment to combat human trafficking and illicit activities in the region. The public can be grateful for the Manatee County Sheriff’s Office dedication to upholding the law and safeguarding the community against human trafficking and related crimes.