Human trafficking is a $32 billion industry that exploits men, women and children. These victims are forced into labor and sex trafficking. They deserve to be protected, and they need our help. This past Tuesday, I joined Governor Rick Scott, legislators and other leaders at Kristi House in Miami for the ceremonial signing of two bills intended to stop human trafficking in Florida and to protect the victims of this horrific crime.
During the 2012 legislative session, I worked closely with Senator Anitere Flores and Representative William Snyder on House Bill 7049, which significantly increases penalties for human trafficking and provides the Office of Statewide Prosecution with jurisdiction to pursue these cases.
I also supported the Florida Safe Harbor Act, House Bill 99, which increases the civil penalty for specified violations of prostitution from $500 to $5,000 and requires $500 of the civil penalty to be used for treatment-based drug court programs. The remaining $4,500 is to be paid to the Department of Children and Families to fund safe houses and short-term safe houses.
I am grateful for such strong leadership at all levels in making Florida a zero-tolerance state for human trafficking. These new laws are a significant step in moving Florida closer to stopping this exploitative and debased industry that preys upon men, women and children.
Alachua County Woman Arrested for Exploiting 11 Disabled Adults
Attorney General Pam Bondi announced today that Zonia Cooper, an Alachua County woman, has been arrested following an investigation by the Medicaid Fraud Control Unit of allegations that the former group home manager exploited eleven disabled adults. Cooper, 44, committed the alleged acts of exploitation during her employment at an Arc of Alachua Group Home.
According to the investigation, Cooper misappropriated more than $1,300 from eleven disabled adults under her supervision. Cooper has been charged with eleven counts of exploitation of a disabled adult and one count of scheme to defraud, all third degree felonies. If convicted of all charges, Cooper faces up to 60 years in prison and a $60,000 fine.
Registered Nurse Arrested for Neglecting an Elderly, Disabled Adult
An investigation led by Attorney General Bondi’s Medicaid Fraud Control Unit culminated Thursday with the arrest of a registered nurse for allegations of failing to assess and monitor a patient’s condition. Shannon Poppell, a registered nurse, turned herself in to the Suwannee County Sheriff’s Office on the charges of one count of neglect of an elderly, disabled adult and one count of falsification of hospital records. Prior to having her employment terminated, Poppell worked for Shands at Live Oak in Suwannee County, also known as Health Management Associates.