LAWTON, OK (KSWO) – Eleven people are behind bars and facing prostitution charges or charges related to the crime after a sting operation by the Lawton Police Department Special Operations Unit.
It was a joint operation between LPD and the Human Trafficking Unit of the Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics. In total, 11 people were arrested. All of the arrests happened Thursday afternoon at a hotel on Second Street in Lawton.
Authorities arrested 6 men they say agreed to pay an undercover officer for sex. Those men were Steven Vea, Michael Gott, Reece Malone, Cyril Ejiogu, Vincent Estel and Letryal Garrett. They also took two women into custody after officers say they agreed to accept money for sex from an undercover officer. Those women were Madison Sutton and Bethany Pitts. Three people were arrested in a traffic stop related to the crimes.
Sergeant Timothy Jenkins with the Lawton Police Department said the legwork of the investigation was done through websites that are popular for prostitution ads.
"It's a lot of posting online, or maybe on social media sites or even going out into the areas and going undercover per say to do it. It's a lot of different avenues depending on the types of tips they get," Jenkins said.
Sergeant Jenkins said those looking to engage in prostitution are always looking for a new way to commit the crime without being caught.
"Are people on social media doing it, are they doing it through text messages, are they just going out in public and doing it, what avenues are they taking. Our special operations division typically finds those things out and those are the avenues they look for to decide how they're going to approach the area of prostitution," Jenkins said.
Sergeant Jenkins said most people don't think of prostitution busts when they think of their special operations unit, but said the work they do to stop it is very important to the community.
"Anytime we as a police department can go out and get any kind of criminal or any kind of arrest that keeps our community safe, it's good for us. We want our local parks, we want our neighborhoods and all of our areas, in general, to be safe. We don't want prostitution, drugs, things like that in our community. If we can get those problems, as much as we can, out of our community, it's great for everybody," Jenkins said.
In all, 11 people will face 18 charges in connection with the sting, though the charges have not yet been filed.