Four Disney employees arrested in Florida human trafficking, child predator sting
Four Disney employees were arrested in a massive undercover operation targeting human traffickers, child predators and prostitution.
The Polk County Sheriff’s Office identified the workers at a news conference Wednesday following the conclusion of Operation March Sadness 2, a six-day sting that led to the arrests of 108 people.
Xavier Jackson, 27, of Kissimmee, allegedly communicated online and via text with an undercover detective posing as a 14-year-old girl, authorities said.
Jackson worked as a lifeguard at Disney’s Polynesian Village Resort, Sheriff Grady Judd said. He allegedly sent photos showing him “doing things that’s totally inappropriate” and bragged about working at the resort, the sheriff said.
Jackson was arrested and charged with three counts of harmful material and one count of unlawful communication.
The three other Disney employees were identified as Ralph Leese, 45; Shubham Malave, 27; and Wilakson Fidele, 24. They were all charged with soliciting a prostitute, Judd said.
Fidele, from Orlando, worked at Disney for about four years at the Cosmic Ray’s Starlight Café in Tomorrowland, the sheriff said. Leese, from Winter Garden, worked in IT for Disney, and Malave was a software developer for the company. Malave is in the United States on a work visa, according to Judd.
Several law enforcement agencies, including the Auburndale Police Department and the Haines City Police Department, worked with the sheriff’s office to make the arrests.
Undercover detectives found the suspects through online sites that identified prostitutes and victims looking for “johns,” authorities said. The detectives then communicated with the suspects, arranged to meet them and arrested the suspects at the location.
The sheriff’s office said members of anti-trafficking organizations would assist to speak with the prostitutes to determine if they were human trafficking victims and to offer help.
“The arrests of a human trafficker and four child predators alone makes this whole operation worthwhile,” Judd said in a statement. “The online prostitution industry enables traffickers and victimizes those who are being trafficked. Our goal is to identify victims, offer them help, and find and arrest those who are profiting from the exploitation of human beings.”
Other suspects that were arrested included a retired Illinois judge and a 17-year-old boy.