Hillsborough County detectives arrested 71 men after a month-long undercover human trafficking sting in Florida.
HCSO Sheriff Chad Chronister said "Operation Interception" was created to "combat human trafficking leading up to the Super Bowl coming to Tampa in February 2021."
"With less than a month until the big game, our covert operations continue, seeking those who choose to sexually exploit others here in our community," Chronister said. "Our goal, as the operation name explains, is to ‘intercept' individuals involved in sexual exploitation before they are able to take advantage of vulnerable individuals, and ultimately, to deter others."
The suspects, which include active-duty military members, a firefighter, a Christian schoolteacher, a banker, construction workers, local business owners, and two registered sex offenders, are between the ages of 20 and 62.
"All of these men have one thing in common: They did not care if the women they were going to have sex with were being exploited, forced to sell their bodies against their will," Chronister said.
Local law enforcement officials had vowed to increase efforts to prevent an increase in human trafficking before Tampa's Super Bowl.
"With less than a month away from the big game, our covert operations continue and will continue seeking those who choose to sexually exploit others in our community. The Super Bowl should not be a venue where these types of crimes occur on the sidelines, whether it's before the game, during the game, or after the game," Chronister said. "We know from past experiences with major sporting events that there will be some who travel for the exclusive purpose of taking advantage of women and children. I want to make it very clear, if you are planning to engage in the sexual exploitation of others, I'm urging you to think twice. We will find you, and you will be arrested."