Two men were arrested and charged with racketeering and conspiracy for their role in a prostitution ring that stretched from Tampa to Sarasota and included a brothel in Pinellas County.
Peter D. Kitt, 41, of Tampa, and Shawn D. Franklin, 42, of St. Petersburg, were arrested and charged with racketeering and conspiracy for their participation in the sex trafficking of approximately 16 women, according to officials Friday.
"These arrests are the first step in bringing justice and peace to the victims of this alleged sex trafficking ring," Attorney General Pam Bondi said in a release. "Florida is a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking, and any individuals engaged in this abhorrent crime will be arrested and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law."
A sting operation in Largo kicked off the investigation in June 2012 snaring Kitt, said Anthony Holloway, Clearwater Police chief, according to Bay News 9.
Kitt, 41, would lure women aged 21-30 who worked in strip clubs to undergo training at a brothel in Pinellas. After the women were trained, they were sent to rooms throughout the Tampa Bay area to work as prostitutes, at times as far away as Sarasota.
"It's hard to believe that these things happen in our towns and in our neighborhoods," Holloway said in a release. "Human trafficking is violent and it is real, and we are dedicated to stopping it in the Tampa Bay area."
Kitt and Franklin are in jail awaiting trial on $1 million bond. The Attorney General's Office of Statewide Prosecution will oversee the case.
This is the first time a local and state agency has made an arrest in a human trafficking case in Florida involving racketeering, according to officials.
Victims can can contact the Clearwater Area Task Force on Human Trafficking at 727-562-4917 or Florida's hotline at 1-800-96-ABUSE.
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