TAMPA, Fla. — Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister said 176 men were arrested during a months-long investigation for attempting to purchase sex — some of them with minors.
Chronister announced the arrests Thursday at a news conference where he highlighted the work of the agency's Human Trafficking Squad, which was formed on June 14, 2021. So far, the squad says it has rescued eight people from human trafficking.
In this particular investigation, the sheriff said "most of the men" are facing charges related to the solicitation of prostitution. Four men were arrested on human trafficking charges, according to the sheriff's office.
Starting in April, undercover detectives posted ads encouraging people looking to purchase sex to show up at a certain hotel. Chronister said the response to these fake hotel ads was "overwhelming" and led to dozens of arrests.
He told the story of one particular man, 34-year-old Paul Turovsky, who allegedly left his new wife during his honeymoon and traveled to meet an undercover detective to pay for sex.
Another group of men, Chronister explained, had inappropriate conversations, and shared photos and videos with undercover detectives who they thought were underage boys or girls. These men were reportedly arrested when they traveled with the intention to meet up with the minors.
"When you read the communication that these individuals wanted to do with these young boys or they wanted to do with these young girls, it is repulsive," Chronister said.
During the investigation, detectives arrested two men they say were trafficking a 16-year-old girl and a 17-year-old girl, both from Massachusetts. The girls, who had been reported missing by their families, were taken into protective custody.
"I want to thank organizations like Selah Freedom, and other victims advocates, who ensure these victims were given proper food and shelter," the sheriff said. "During our work to eradicate the disgusting act of prostitution, one victim was taken to rehab.
"Another was returned to her mother, and one provided a plane ticket to return to her family in another state."
You can watch the full news conference below.