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Ripley is a town in southeastern Payne County, Oklahoma. Its population was 269 at the 2020 census, and has declined substantially since 2000, when there were 444 residents. It is located about midway between Tulsa and Oklahoma City, in North-Central Oklahoma. Prostitution and sex trafficking are known to occur in incorporated and unincorporated areas of the Payne County. This activity and its ancillary crimes have generated complaints to police by residents and businesses. Prostitution was not widely known to be a substantial problem in Ripley until a robust local, organized crime operation was discovered in 2019 during a state-wide crackdown on prostitution and sex trafficking conducted by multiple agencies for over a year. “Operation Velvet Fury” led to the a local school teacher and seven others being arrested for using local massage parlors as a front for illicit sex businesses. The Oklahoma Attorney General’s office along with the Tulsa County DA’s office, Tulsa police, and other local law enforcement have been scouring the dark web, encrypted apps and other online chat rooms. Over the course of this investigation it was discovered that vast networks and infrastructures allowed illicit massage businesses to advertise their practices while giving the sex buyers and crime conspirators to operate freely. In Ripley, police arrested a teacher at the town’s Middle School. She was alleged to be one of the ring leaders of the organized crime ring. She was an administrator for a social media site that brought “customers” to massage parlors for prostitution. She was arrested and charged with racketeering, pandering, using computers to violate state law, conspiracy to commit a felony, and obtaining proceeds from violating state law. Officials say the task force has shut down several massage parlors and made dozens of arrests.
In an effort to address such crimes, demand reduction tactics have been used within the Payne County. In the town of Ripley, at least one sex buyer was arrested, his identity disclosed, and his employment terminated. A local sex buyer was also arrested during “Operation Velvet Fury.” The man was the Ripley Public Schools Superintendent, and he was charged with soliciting prostitution. The man’s identity was publicly disclosed. According to reports, as a result of their arrests, both the middle school teacher and the Superintendent were removed from their positions with Ripley ISD. In a statement from the Ripley Schools Facebook Page, an Interim Superintendent was appointed as a result of the sex buyer’s arrest,
“Today, at our special board meeting, I was asked to become your new Interim Superintendent. This is not a task that I was seeking, but I will do my best for our little school. I will need guidance and lots of positive support to make it through. It is easy to be negative about things, but it is hard to be that positive beam of light to always support your community and school.”
- Ripley Public Schools
- Payne County District Attorney’s Office
- Payne County Sheriff’s Office
- Department of Homeland Security
- Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office
- Tulsa Police Department
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://kfor.com/oklahoma-superintendent-former-teacher-arrested-prostitution-bust/ (2019)
- https://www.stwnewspress.com/prostitution-sting-nets-ripley-superintendent-teacher (2019)
- https://ktul.com/second-ripley-schools-employee-arrested-prostitution-network (20-19)
- https://www.wqad.com/oklahoma-superintendent-ex-teacher-arrested-in-prostitution-ring-bust (2019)
- https://www.fox6now.com/oklahoma-superintendent-ex-teacher-arrested-in-prostitution-ring-bust (2019)
- https://kdvr.com/oklahoma-superintendent-ex-teacher-arrested-in-prostitution-ring-bust/ (2019)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Suspect Charged in Rape of Girl,” Tulsa World, June 1 2000.
- “Ogden Man Faces Sex Charges in Oklahoma; Prosecutors Say He Helped Girl Run Away from Home,” Deseret News, June 5 2000.
- https://www.ocolly.com/stillwater-police-monitor-for-possible-human-trafficking/article (2019)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Oklahoma City man, woman face prostitution charges in Stillwater (2010)
- “Two People to Appear in Payne County Court on Prostitution Charges”, Stillwater News Press, December 6 2010.
- “Prostitution Charges Rare in Stillwater, Police Captain Says”, Oklahoma City Oklahoman, December 8 2010.
- “Charges in Prostitution Case Dismissed”, Stillwater News Press, September 28 2011.