More than 170 people were arrested on charges ranging from solicitation of prostitution to human trafficking of a minor in case involving a girl who was 13 when the two-year investigation began, Florida law enforcement authorities announced Tuesday.
The investigation began in November 2018 when a Tallahassee police investigator noticed photos of a minor on a website offering sex for money. The investigation involved a massive amount of electronic evidence that took months to evaluate, authorities said.
“These crimes took place all over the city,” Tallahassee Police Chief Lawrence Revell said during a news conference. “Never have we had a case of this magnitude.”
The crimes also went far beyond the city line and included suspects from Alabama and Mississippi. Tallahassee police worked with several local, state and federal agencies during the investigation.
Authorities say 106 people were charged with felonies, including 19 on federal charges. Charges included enticement and coercion of a minor to engage in sexual activity, enticement and coercion of a minor to engage in prostitution, production and/or or receipt of child pornography, transfer of obscene material to a minor, sex trafficking a minor and conspiracy to sex traffic a minor.
Another 72 suspects were charged with misdemeanors.
While the victim was 13 when the case began, Tallahassee police investigator Beth Bascom said, “Don't kid yourself that it wasn't happening prior to being documented.”
“This was a child ... who worked through her birthday as if it did not exist, who worked on Thanksgiving while we sat at tables and enjoyed our families, who worked through Christmas as if it wasn't even there,” Bascom said.
The victim did not want to give a formal statement, but eventually wants a judges and others to know how it has affected her.
“She does have things to say,” Bascom said. “She was able to say that this has seriously impacted her life and it is very difficult at times, but that she is working on getting her life back.”