Florida: 123 Arrested In Human Trafficking Operation, Including Elementary School Teacher

(Photo via;  Hillsborough County Sheriffs Office)
(Photo via: Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office)

OAN’s Abril Elfi
12:22 PM – Thursday, January 11, 2024

A human trafficking operation in Florida resulted in the arrest of over 120 men, and among those arrested was an elementary school teacher, according to authorities. 


On Thursday, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister announced that some of the most concerning individuals that were caught in the operation involved a teacher who had worked at James Elementary School, a mental health hospital nurse, a Wesley Chapel basketball coach, and a man “employed by a spiritual organization.”

“We targeted this crime through a multi-pronged approach by conducting undercover street walker and hotel and motel operations along with online chats where our undercover investigators posed as minors available for sex as well as guardians selling children for sex,” Chronister said.

According to the sheriff’s office, they came into contact with former James Elementary School science teacher James Villacorteza, 28, after detectives posed as children and young teens on online platforms. 

Villacorteza is now facing several charges for soliciting sexual acts from a minor and traveling to meet that minor for sex.

Police maintained that the operation showcased “the significant impact of combating the insidious crime of human trafficking.”

“This operation resulted in the arrests of several individuals, including 39-year-old Zheng Dong. Dong was previously arrested in May of 2022 on Human Trafficking related charges,” the sheriff’s office said in a news release. “These 123 arrests transcend mere statistics. They represent our commitment to protect the innocent and our relentless efforts to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our community.”

Additionally, Chronister said that another factor that alarmed officers was the illegal possession of firearms by some of the arrested individuals.

“As if the sexual exploitation is not damaging enough, who knows what their true intentions were with the firearms they possessed,” Chronister said. “Why would you need a gun to have sex with a child? What were their true intentions? This is the part that’s even more concerning than them just trying to have this illegal, incredibly heinous act with a young person.”

Chronister has urged Florida residents to remain vigilantly aware of child predators and to report any suspected trafficking activity.

If you or someone you know is a victim of human trafficking, help is available 24-hours a day through the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 888-373-7888.

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