Former Teacher, Pastor Among 125 Men Arrested in Human Trafficking Sting

The Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office’s 20-day undercover operation led to the arrests of 125 men and five victims getting rescued from human trafficking.

Named “Operation Round-Up,” the sting operation — which lasted from Aug. 4 to Oct. 13 — targeted suspects seeking minors, sex, exploiting victims through human trafficking. Two of the 125 suspects included Joel Velasco, a 38-year-old former teacher, and Samuel Phillips Jr., a pastor at Be Limitless Church.

Both Velasco and Phillips allegedly offered to pay an undercover detective for sex. During a press conference, Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister revealed 48-year-old Philip Velikettel was arrested while attempting to meet who he believed was a 14-year-old girl while 38-year-old Muntasir Shafiq sent sexually explicit messages to who he thought was a 14-year-old boy.

Nearly half a dozen victims were rescued during the undercover operations, including four adult women and a teenager. Chronister added that the victims are receiving support from Selah Freedom, an organization that provides support to human trafficking survivors.

Chronister claimed the success of “Operation Round-Up” and previous investigations have led the HCSO to set up a full-time squad dedicated to fighting human trafficking and supporting victims.

Look above to view images of all suspects who were arrested.

Source: NBC 8

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