High School Coach Among Nearly 80 People Arrested In Sex Trafficking Sting Operation

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Marlo Safi Culture Reporter
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A high school basketball coach was among the 79 people arrested in a human trafficking sting in Florida, police said, according to numerous sources.

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that “Operation Takedown” led to the arrests of several men with charges that they solicited sex, WFLA reported. One man is reportedly a girls high school basketball coach at Land O’ Lakes High School.

Police say the suspects took advantage of WrestleMania 37, a large-scale community event in Tampa, to conduct the human trafficking operation, according to Fox 13. Large-scale events, like the Super Bowl, attract people who are involved in human trafficking, police said. (RELATED: Several California Beauty Businesses Believed To Be Center Of Sex Trafficking Ring)

Sheriff Chad Chronister said female investigators went undercover as “streetwalkers” to catch the suspects and detectives made undercover online profiles and fake sex advertisements, according to Fox 13.

Three of the suspects include Jason Brooks, 44, Jamel Muldrew, 32, and Rusty Harden, 41, who are facing human trafficking charges or soliciting illegal acts from a minor charges, according to WFLA. 

Brooks allegedly responded to a decoy prostitution advertisement and thought he was going to pay for sex with a 17-year-old girl, police said, according to WFLA. Muldrew allegedly transported a 17-year-old girl for commercial sex acts, leading to a transporting for prostitution charge and a deriving support from the proceeds of prostitution charge, WFLA reported.

Harden, a registered sex offender, allegedly sent explicit messages to an undercover detective he believed was a 14-year-old girl and traveled to meet a minor to solicit illegal acts, police said.

“He traveled to meet the girl but instead was met with our detectives,” Chronister said, according to Fox 13.

Florida had the third-highest rate of human trafficking cases in the U.S. in 2019, according to WFLA.