Nearly 80 people were arrested during a sex trafficking sting in Florida , including a pastor and a girl’s high school coach. They were led to believe that they would be hooking up with minors for sex after false ads were placed. But, what they found on their arrival was greeted by the long arm of the law.
Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office said Thursday that “Operation Takedown” and led to the arrests of Earnest Benjamin, 39, and Christopher Ray, 39.
Benjamin, age 39 is a pastor at Breath of Life Worship Church in Tampa. Ray, also 39 is a high school basketball coach at Land O’ Lakes High School. In both cases, people who know the pair were shocked by their arrests.
The sting took place from March 30 to April 9 and is the second human trafficking operation conducted by the sheriff’s office this year ahead of a large-scale community event, WFLA reported. https://t.co/0eE5Qohnd2
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The sheriff’s office said the perps used WrestleMania 37 in order to take advantage of the occasion to further the human trafficking. The operation lasted a month and is the second major sting in the area this year. large scale events usually increase the demand for sex such as the Super Bowl , All Star games or Democratic conventions.
A Florida sheriff’s office announced Thursday more than 70 men were arrested as part of a week-long operation aimed at combating human trafficking.https://t.co/mI6rTVz2MT
— WBTW News 13 (@WBTWNews13) April 16, 2021
Benjamin allegedly offered $25 for oral sex while his two young children were present, which led to a charge of contributing to delinquency or dependency of a child, according to Fox 13. Ray allegedly responded to an ad placed on an escort site.
According to WFLA, parents with children at the Breath of Life Worship Church daycare were shocked when they heard Benjamin was arrested in the operation. Pastor County School District, where Ray is a coach, said he was suspended pending the school’s investigation, according to WFLA.
“Both of these men, trusted and revered members of our community, were arrested for soliciting another to commit prostitution,” Sheriff Chad Chronister said, according to Fox 13.
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.
Under the Trump presidency, federal investigators routinely ran stings in which they rescued many small children from the clutches of sex traffickers but Joe Biden ended those when he took office. Previously large numbers of sex traffickers were arrested and prosecuted.