Samuel Phillips Jr., a Florida pastor who just last month launched a new church near Tampa, has been arrested and charged with solicitation to commit prostitution. He’s one of 125 people arrested in Hillsborough County after a 20-day sting named Operation Round-Up.
At a press conference Monday, Sheriff Chad Chronister shared information about the sting, which led to the rescue of five females, including one teenager. He also emphasized that the county is determined to “eradicate human trafficking.”
Samuel Phillips Jr.’s Be Limitless Church Just Kicked Off
The sheriff’s office identifies Samuel Phillips Jr., 44, as “a pastor at Be Limitless Church,” noting that he was arrested “when he responded to a false ad placed on an escort website and offered to pay our undercover detective for sex.”
Be Limitless, located in Riverview, held its first worship service September 26 in a local theater. On its website, the church says its purpose is “to interrupt people’s current situation and help them experience the love of Christ.” A video that was still up midweek features Phillips and his wife, Selena, introducing their two daughters and explaining the church’s background.
Samuel Phillips Jr. says God spoke to him in January, saying, “I am a limitless God, and I call you to be a limitless people.” Be Limitless isn’t just the name of the new church, adds Selena Phillips, but “also a command.”
The church has deactivated its Facebook page, and its phone number is now out of service. ChurchLeaders emailed Be Limitless, requesting comment, but hasn’t received a response.
A Facebook post by another local pastor, who indicates he is friends with the Phillips, features photos of the Be Limitless kickoff. “Sam and Selena, Thank you for your faithfulness and willingness to follow The Lord’s guidance,” writes Brent Simpson. “I’m rooting for you guys.”
Several headlines about the Operation Round-Up arrests single out Phillips, as a pastor, and Joel Velasco, a former public school teacher. Sheriff Chronister says those two men, thinking they were communicating with females, offered undercover officers money for sex.
“These men who were all held to a standard of trust and respect were all arrested for soliciting another to commit prostitution,” he says. “Individuals who make a conscious choice and effort to take advantage of others through human trafficking have no room in Hillsborough County.” In the Tampa area, the sheriff adds, anti-trafficking work is year-round, “proactive and relentless.”