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St. Johns County man arrested in ‘Operation Spring Fling’ found guilty of human trafficking

ST. JOHNS COUNTY, Fla. — It took only one day for a jury to find James Ford guilty as charged with human trafficking.

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Action News Jax told you back in 2023 when the St. Johns County Sheriff’s office in collaboration with 10 other local, state, and federal law enforcement agencies conducted “Operation Spring Fling.”

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A total of 14 suspects, including Ford, were arrested and charged with numerous criminal offenses related to online child exploitation.

The sheriff’s office said that during the operation, an undercover detective acted as a 14-year-old girl in an internet ad. The detective. That detective then received sexual text messages from Ford in response to the ad.

Ford agreed to pay $150 in exchange for sexual acts. He then traveled to meet the minor at a location in St. Johns County where he was arrested.

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“When a person attempts to or succeeds in paying for sex -- they are partaking in the human trafficking trade,” State Attorney R.J. Larizza said about the case. “And when they seek a sexual episode with a minor -- like the defendant did -- they engage in the most despicable crime of child sex trafficking.”

Ford faces life in prison.

The case was investigated by the St. Johns County Sheriff’s Office.

SJSO ICAC Detectives would like to remind parents and guardians to monitor your children’s online activities, set boundaries, and have conversations about the danger that exists online.

RELATED: Woman accused of sexual battery, human trafficking of nonverbal girl, St. Johns deputies say

Please visit the INTERCEPT Task Force website at https://operationlightshine.org/ for information on reporting child exploitation and human trafficking, and resources to help protect children.

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