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For Immediate Release : Hillsborough County Sheriff’s Office
Release Number: 24-12




Sheriff Chad Chronister and the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office are pleased to unveil significant achievements in the fight against human trafficking.

HCSO's Human Trafficking Squad arrested 123 people in the last three months as a part of Operation Renewed Hope.

"The arrests made by our dedicated Human Trafficking Squad transcend mere statistics. They represent our commitment to protect the innocent and a persistent effort to safeguard the most vulnerable members of our community," said Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister.

This undercover operation included online predators targeting minors. When these arrestees thought they were communicating with children and young teens, it was HCSO's undercover detectives on the other side of the keyboard.

That is when HCSO came in contact with James Villacorteza, 28, a former Science teacher at James Elementary. Villacorteza is facing several charges for soliciting sexual acts from a minor and traveling to meet that minor for sex.

Detectives also focused on reducing the demand for prostitution. This operation resulted in the arrests of several individuals, including 39-year-old Zheng Dong. Dong was previously arrested in May of 2022 on Human Trafficking related charges.

During the 22 days of undercover operations, six individuals were arrested on Human Trafficking charges.

"The work of the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office Human Trafficking Squad is not merely a job—it's a mission, a mission to protect and preserve the very fabric of our community,” said Sheriff Chronister.

It is a mission that extends beyond today’s announcement. Since Sheriff Chronister launched the Human Trafficking Squad in June 2021,  they have arrested 604 people, charging 36 with human trafficking-related charges.

"What I find even more impressive is the fact this squad has rescued 28 victims from the grips of human trafficking," said Sheriff Chronister. "That is 28 people whose lives were saved thanks to the hard work and dedication of the men and women on this team."

The fight against human trafficking is a shared responsibility, and Sheriff Chronister urged the community to stay vigilant and report any suspicious activities to 813-247-8200.

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