Human trafficking sting nets Brevard County men

An intensive, six-day-long prostitution sting focused on human trafficking — including those soliciting sex from minors — netted 104 arrests in Polk County, including an active duty U.S. Air Force officer from Brevard who coaches Little League and a 51-year-old Melbourne man with military ties.

Three other Brevard County men also were arrested.

The undercover sting was the latest and one of the largest for the county, which has carried out a number of similar arrests in past operations that take place at least twice a year.

The sting, which ended Sunday, targeted those who either advertised online for sex or who responded to internet-based advertisements set up by undercover investigators. The agents rented a home and set up online profiles.

Polk County sheriff’s officials said several of those arrested in Operation “March Sadness,” as the investigation was dubbed by authorities, were traveling prostitutes who journeyed state to state to trade sex for cash. Some were from Ohio, Texas and New York.

“We suspect that some of the people who arrived at our undercover location are victims of human trafficking,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said in a prepared statement.

Investigators said 32-year-old Dirk Watson, of Merritt Island, was charged with use of a computer to seduce a child, use of a two-way communication device, traveling to meet a minor and lewd molestation after investigators said he went to Polk County to meet with someone he thought was a 14-year-old girl.

Watson, investigators said, is an active-duty captain stationed at Cape Canaveral Air Force Station and a coach for his son’s Little League baseball team.

His wife and two children were visiting Disney World and he was going to join them Sunday, according to a news release. Saturday night he attempted to rendezvous with an undercover agent acting as a child, reports show.

“It’s very disturbing,” said Carrie Horstman, a spokeswoman for the Polk County Sheriff’s Office. “He went online, found the profile and initiated the conversation with someone he thought was a 14-year-old. He asked her age and asked if she was a virgin. Usually, it takes a day or two before they work up the confidence to do something like this, but he came out to meet with her two hours after initiating the contact, all while his family was visiting Disney,” she said.

A 51-year-old Melbourne man identified as John Hamilton was also taken into custody after Polk County authorities said he arrived at the undercover officer’s location to engage in sexual relations with agents he thought were two prostitutes.

Hamilton, investigators said, is a retired Air Force major. The other three Brevard County men arrested were Eyad Safar, Melbourne, solicitation of prostitution; Gregory Aramini, Rockledge, and Gary Harrison, Cocoa, who were both charged with deriving proceeds from prostitution, records show.

Agents identified 38 of those arrested as prostitutes; 51 as people soliciting prostitution.


Original Story from Florida Today

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