High school teacher among 95 arrested in Polk prostitution sting, deputies say

A five-day human trafficking undercover operation in Polk County netted 95 arrests, including a high school teacher, deputies said on Monday.

The Polk County Sheriff’s Office along with Lakeland police conducted the operation between Wednesday and Sunday.

The suspects range in age from 15 to 68 years old. They face charges of soliciting prostitution, offering to commit prostitution and other related crimes.

The sting focused on suspects who advertise prostitution services in online ads. Female detectives, posing as prostitutes, posted fictitious ads online and male detectives, posing as johns, responded to ads posted by others, deputies said.

Detectives filed 21 felony charges and 111 misdemeanor charges. 

Of those arrested:

♦ 50 were prostitutes

♦ 33 were “johns”

♦ 12 others were arrested for related charges

♦ 17 told detectives they were married

♦ 25 told detectives they were on public assistance

♦ 28 are Polk County residents

Timothy Percell, 33, of Lakeland teaches algebra at George Jenkins High School and faces charges of soliciting prostitution.

“We’ve seen firsthand the negative social costs of how prostitution hurts families, children, and communities. And more often than not, there is a high correlation between other crimes and prostitution,” Polk Sheriff Grady Judd said. “There is also a direct nexus between prostitution and human trafficking, and we are committed to identifying victims of human trafficking and getting them into programs and out of lives of crime.”

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