Disney Employees, Judge Among 108 Arrested in Fla. Sting Operation Aiming to Catch Traffickers, Predators

The Polk County Sheriff's Office, with the help of nonprofit and law enforcement partners, busted men and women from around the country, all now charged with sex-related offenses

An undercover investigation spearheaded by the Polk County Sheriff's Office in Florida led to the arrests of more than 100 people, all charged with crimes related to human trafficking, prostitution and child predation.

On Wednesday, Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd held a press conference, along with partners from neighboring law enforcement agencies and nonprofit organizations, announcing the arrests of 108 men and women who fell into detectives' trap.

The sting operation, which began on March 8 and lasted six days, was named "Operation March Sadness 2." Judd explained that the name was inspired by the NCAA March Madness tournament, for which basketball fans fill out brackets predicting which colleges will make it to the championship.

"We have our own bracket," Judd said from the podium. "But instead of brackets of winners, we have brackets of losers."

Trafficking Arrests
Polk County Sheriff's Office

During the lengthy press conference announcing the mass arrests, Judd spent several minutes highlighting suspects whose allegations he found particularly troubling. Among them were Disney employees, a worker at the Fun Spot family amusement park, a woman accused of trafficking another young woman, and a retired Illinois judge.

The Disney employees arrested include Xavier Jackson, a 27-year-old lifeguard at Disney's Polynesian Village Resort, who is charged with three counts of harmful material and one count of unlawful communication for allegedly sending explicit photos to a detective whom he believed was a 14-year-old girl. Wilakson Fidele, who works at Cosmic Ray's Starlight Café in Tomorrowland, and Ralph Leese, who works in information technology, were also arrested for allegedly seeking prostitutes.

Walt Disney World has placed the three employees on unpaid leave, PEOPLE confirms. An additional suspect whom Judd identified as a software developer for Disney has never been employed by the company, according to a representative.

Trafficking Arrests
Polk County Sheriff's Office

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In addition to Xavier Jackson, three of the 108 suspects are accused of being child sexual predators. Timothy Finley, a 39-year-old handyman, is charged with traveling to meet a young child, resisting arrest, attempted lewd battery, and transmission of explicit material. Shannon Johnson, a 41-year-old, is charged with traveling to meet a 13-year-old girl, attempted lewd battery, and transmission of explicit material. Jody Rose, 36, is facing 11 felony charges for allegedly sending sexually explicit material to who he believed was a 14-year-old girl, saying, "Don't tell the cops."

Judd also singled out Richard Jackson, accused of seeking a prostitute, who deals with children as an employee at the Fun Spot amusement park; Nelson Cruz, a Cracker Barrel manager who allegedly told authorities he was seeking a prostitute after an argument with his wife; Tiffany Nash, a KFC manager with 61 prior criminal charges who was allegedly caught bringing a trafficking victim to what she believed was a sexual encounter; and others whose faces appear on the "bracket" of arrests.

Perhaps most notably, Judd exposed the accusations against 66-year-old Daniel Peters, a retired judge from Cook County, Ill., allegedly caught seeking an escort. According to Judd, Peters told authorities after his arrest that he had also served as the director of professional regulations for the Cook County Sheriff's Office earlier in his career. "No, I'm not kidding you," Judd remarked.

Auburndale Police Chief Andy Ray addressed reporters after Judd to thank all parties involved in the successful operation.

"Everybody is involved in this because it's important and because the victims of human trafficking and the sex business deserve our help and need our help," Ray said. "We're happy to be a part of taking people off the street that are dangerous to your kids and the community."

If you or someone you know has been a victim of sexual abuse, text "STRENGTH" to the Crisis Text Line at 741-741 to be connected to a certified crisis counselor.

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