POLK COUNTY, FL – Polk County authorities announced Wednesday that they had arrested 108 individuals in connection with a sting operation that targeted human trafficking and other illicit crimes; among those arrested, police say, were four employees of Disney, ranging from resort workers to IT specialists .
“Operation March Sadness 2” spanned for six days starting on March 8 and consisted of undercover detectives making contact with suspects via the internet to arrange in-person meetups for illegal activity, focusing on human trafficking, prostitution and child predators.
Once the suspect would arrive at the designated place and time, they were placed under arrest, with four of the 108 individuals apprehended during the sting being Disney employees, according to Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd during a news conference Wednesday.
Xavier Jackson, 27, worked as a lifeguard at the Polynesian Resort for Walt Disney, Judd said, and allegedly sent inappropriate photos of himself and messages to an undercover detective who pretended to be a 14-year-old girl. He was charged with three counts of transmitting harmful material to a minor and one count of unlawful communication.
The three others, all of whom had allegedly attempted to solicit a prostitute, were Wilkason Fidele, 24, who worked at the Cosmic Restaurant at Walt Disney World’s Tomorrowland for four years; Shubham Malave, 27, who is on a visa citizenship from India and worked as a software developer for Disney; and Ralph Leese, 45, who spent nearly four years working in IT for Disney.
“The arrests of a human trafficker and four child predators alone makes this whole operation worthwhile,” Judd said. “Where there is prostitution, there is exploitation, disease, dysfunction and broken families.”