Disney employees arrested in human trafficking sting

The sting went down in Florida and was given the code name "Operation March Sadness 2"

By Kelly McClure

Nights & Weekends Editor

Published March 16, 2022 10:29PM (EDT)

Empty prison hallway (Getty Images)
Empty prison hallway (Getty Images)

A six-day human trafficking sting in Florida operating under the name "Operation March Sadness 2" has concluded with the arrests of 108 people. Listed among those detained for allegedly seeking prostitutes and minors for sexual purposes were four Disney employees and a former judge, according to police reports obtained by CBS

"The arrests of a human trafficker and four child predators alone makes this whole operation worthwhile," Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said Wednesday. "Where there is prostitution, there is exploitation, disease, dysfunction and broken families."

Detectives working the sting operation used online postings from various prostitutes to entrap would-be predators, some of whom believed to be communicating with minors as young as 14.

Related: Jury finds Ghislaine Maxwell guilty on 5 of 6 counts in sex trafficking trial

The four Disney employees detained in the sting were identified as Xavier Jackson (27), a lifeguard at the Polynesian Resort for Walt Disney, Wilkason Fidele (24), a worker at the Cosmic Restaurant at Walt Disney World's Tomorrowland, Shubham Malave (27), a software developer for Disney, and Ralph Leese (45) who worked in IT for Disney. 

Want a daily wrap-up of all the news and commentary Salon has to offer? Subscribe to our morning newsletter, Crash Course.

"We protected some little girl someplace that was groomed or potentially groomed by these evil, deviant criminals, thugs, that's all they are," Judd said about the four suspects at a press conference reported on by CBS. "They're dangerous people." 

"What amazes me is we could do another operation starting next week and fill this board up again," Judd said. "And be sure of one thing: These chiefs and I will do just that. We'll be back and if you violate the law, we're going to take you to jail. That's a guarantee." 

Among the others detained was a man named Daniel Peters (66) a former Cook County judge. Peters was charged with soliciting a prostitute. 

Read more:

By Kelly McClure

Kelly McClure is a journalist and fiction writer who lives in New Orleans. She is Salon's Nights and Weekends Editor covering daily news, politics and culture. Her work has been featured in Vulture, The A.V. Club, Vanity Fair, Cosmopolitan, Nylon, Vice, and elsewhere. She is the author of Something is Always Happening Somewhere.

MORE FROM Kelly McClure

Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Aggregate Disney Florida Human Trafficking Operation March Sadness 2