This morning, federal, state, and local law enforcement announced the success of an investigation into a human trafficking ring that has spanned the past 2 years. Operation “Pop-A-Smurf” successfully dismantled a drug and human trafficking ring that involved more than 50 people.
Last week, the successful collaboration of federal, state, and local law enforcement led to the arrest of 25 perpetrators and recovery of seven victims of human trafficking, including one minor. In addition, law enforcement confiscated 59.6 g of Heroin, 27.1 g of Cannabis, 10.5 g of Cocaine, 30 Xanax pills, 20 miscellaneous Rx pills, and seized over $10,000 in cash. (Picture to right courtesy Karla Ray)
The investigation is ongoing due to one suspect who is still at large. Edward Redmond, aka “Man-Man” is one of the accused ring leaders and is considered armed and dangerous. Please contact 911 if you have any information as to his whereabouts.
During today’s press conference, Attorney General Pam Bondi said, “We will make Florida a zero tolerance state for human trafficking.” This is one example of the lengths our authorities will go to see her proclamation become a reality. 15 agencies worked thousands of hours on surveillance and investigation in the success of this case.
The human trafficking ring leaders used drugs to keep their victims submissive. Lt. Gibson said, “If you are made addicted to heroin as a way to force you into sex work, that’s as bad as being chained up or held captive.”
In the days leading up to the recovery operation, Florida Abolitionist’s Victim Advocates, Victim Service Center of Central Florida, and other partnering agencies worked tirelessly to ensure that appropriate care would be given to those recovered in the operation. When authorities had the green light to go in, our advocates and partners were ready. They immediately met with the human trafficking victims to assess their needs and begin building rapport.
So far, 3 of the victims have requested care and we are ensuring they receive what they need. Sadly, others so far have not asked for help and since they are adults, we are only able to provide what they request. We hope and pray they will choose to reach out so they do not return to lives of exploitation, as many often do because of their deep trauma bonds.