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‘He’s making decisions for our children’: California school board member arrested in undercover human trafficking operation in Florida

Scott Kenneth Wooden (Polk County Sheriff's Office)

Scott Kenneth Wooden (Polk County Sheriff’s Office)

A veteran school board member from California was arrested in Florida after being caught in an undercover human trafficking operation.

Scott Kenneth Wooden, 60, was taken into custody last weekend and charged with one count of soliciting another to commit prostitution, authorities announced.

Wooden was among 213 people authorities arrested as part of the seven-day sting operation known as “Operation Traffic Stop,” which began on Feb. 6 and was overseen by the Polk County Sheriff’s Office Vice Unit, officials said in a news release.

According to an affidavit, the operation involved undercover detectives posing as escorts and posting fictitious advertisements online while male detectives posed as customers known as Johns responding to online advertisements offering prostitution services.

An undercover agent on Feb. 10 posted an advertisement online and was contacted by a man identified as Wooden, the affidavit states.

During the text and phone conversations, Wooden allegedly agreed to come to the location of the undercover operation and pay between $50 and $200 for various sexual acts.

Wooden arrived at the location just before 5 p.m. and made contact with an undercover detective, according to the affidavit. Wooden then allegedly told the detective that he wanted to pay her $200 for sex without a condom. Police then converged, and Wooden was arrested.

Wooden allegedly told authorities he “got caught doing something stupid,” records said.

Wooden, a retired pharmaceutical scientist and member of the Del Mar Union School District Board of Trustees since 2010, was booked into the Polk County Jail on Feb. 11 and released on Feb. 13 after posting $500 bail, online records show. He is due to appear in court on Feb. 24.

The Del Mar Times reported that he has been married for 23 years and has two children.

Authorities mentioned Wooden’s arrest during a Thursday news conference announcing the end of the operation.

“Where would we be with a human trafficking operation without an elected official,” Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd said while holding up a photo of Wooden’s mugshot. “This guy knows better. He’s supposed to be a leader in the community. He’s an elected official. He’s making decisions for our children, and he’s out soliciting prostitutes.”

The school district said in a statement that Wooden resigned from the District’s Governing Board of Trustees effective immediately.

“The Board is currently exploring options to fill the vacancy,” the statement said. “We will keep the community informed as the District moves through this process.”

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Jerry Lambe is a journalist at Law&Crime. He is a graduate of Georgetown University and New York Law School and previously worked in financial securities compliance and Civil Rights employment law.