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Ada County is located in southwestern Idaho and has approximately 512,000 residents. Its county seat and largest city is Boise, ID, which is also the state capital. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city of Boise and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of Ada County. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates have resulted in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. In the late 1970s and early 1980s, Ada County law enforcement officials reported a connection between an increase in local homicides and an increase in prostitution activity in the county. According to an Ada County prosecutor, the county accounted for 2/3 of the state’s prostitution arrests. The prosecutor also stated an increase in the number of violent prostitution-related incidents, such as the targeted homicides of two known prostituted women in the late 1970s. Less violent crimes are also associated with prostitution and sex trafficking—for example, between 2019 and 2021 a Boise man coerced two women to engage in prostitution and then laundered up to $550,000 from this “business,” using some of the proceeds to purchase jewelry. In May 2022 he was sentenced to 77 months in prison for transporting women for prostitution and money laundering.
Among the additional serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market in this part of Idaho are child sex trafficking and the related production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, referred to in many legal codes as “child pornography”). In 2013, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office participated in an investigation of an offender’s activities beginning in April 2012 after Boise police were contacted by a person who saw a Craigslist advertisement “offering a young child for sex.” Investigators worked with Craigslist and Google and traced the ad back to the offender. Boise police investigators executed a warrant to search the suspect’s home on May 31, 2012. Investigators found that the man produced 26 sexually explicit images and videos of female minor(s) who were less than six years of age, and distributed CSAM that he had produced himself, or that he had obtained from the Internet, via email to at least 16 other individuals. The images and videos depicted actual and simulated intercourse, oral sex, and explicit nude images of children. The man was arrested and sentenced to 30 years in federal prison and a lifetime of probation.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted as a strategy for prevention and response. To identify and apprehend sex buyers driving the prostitution and sex trafficking markets, law enforcement agencies have collaborated on both street-level and web-based reverse stings, in addition to identity disclosure. For example, in November 2020, a street-level reverse sting was conducted by the Meridian Police Department, with assistance from the Department of Homeland Security and Idaho State Police Fusion Center. As a result of the operation, one woman was arrested for prostitution and three male sex buyers were arrested on misdemeanor charges of “patronizing a prostitute.” The names and images of arrested offenders were published in news releases.
The web-based reverse sting operations conducted in the county have primarily focused on individuals seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. For example, in March 2018, a coalition of law enforcement agencies collaborated on a web-based reverse sting targeting people seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. The operation was led by the Idaho Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force, which falls under the Office of the Attorney General, and resulted in the arrest of 10 men, five of whom were charged in Ada County and five of whom were charged in federal court. Participating agencies included the Department of Homeland Security, the Ada County Sheriff’s Office, the Boise Police Department, as well as additional detectives and prosecutors from around the Treasure Valley. The identities, ages, and charges of the arrested sex buyers were included in reports by local media outlets. The five men who were charged locally had their images released. The Department of Justice declined to release the images of the five federal arrestees.
In November 2018, 11 men were arrested and charged after the Idaho Attorney General’s Office conducted a sting operation over one weekend. “Operation Grand Canyon” targeted individuals seeking to sexually exploit children in exchange for money. Local law enforcement teamed with the Attorney General’s Internet Crimes Against Children unit, as well as state and federal agencies. Seven of the men faced state charges, while four were charged in federal court. Mugshots were not released for defendants in the federal system. In September 2021, another reverse sting resulted in the arrest of 11 sex buyers, all of whom had their identities included in news releases.
In addition to conducting web-based reverse sting operations, sex buyers have also been apprehended as the result of alternative investigations. For example, in 2010, what was initially a routine response to a home burglary alarm that had been set off at a local residence ended in the arrest of two women and one man on prostitution-related charges by Meridian police. When police arrived at the residence, they found two women and one man, who was significantly older than the women, arguing inside the residence. According to reports, the man had been attempting to leave the residence to end an argument about the price and type of sex acts the three would engage in, when someone inadvertently set off the alarm. The sex buyer told police that he had responded to the one of the woman’s ads on Craigslist, a website known for prostitution and sex trafficking, and arranged to meet the two women at the residence. Meridian police handed the case to the Boise City Attorney’s Office who made the arrests a few days following the incident. Both women were charged with prostitution, a misdemeanor, but the charge against one of the women was dropped as a result of her cooperation in the case. The man was found guilty of patronizing a prostitute, and was given a withheld judgement, meaning that if he completed a year of probation without any further incidents the charge could be removed from his record. The identities and images of arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets.
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the county. For example, in 2018, as a result of the March 2018 child sexual exploitation investigation led by the Idaho ICAC Task Force, a 62-year-old physical education teacher at Longfellow Elementary School and Jefferson Elementary School and the JV boys basketball coach at Boise High School was one of the 10 male sex buyers arrested during the operation. According to reports, the sex buyer had agreed to meet a mother and her 15-year-old daughter for commercial sex during an online interaction with the undercover officer. Upon his arrival to the predetermined location, the offender was arrested by undercover officers and charged with attempted lewd conduct with a child under the age of 16—a felony offense. As a result of his arrest, he was placed on administrative leave pending the investigation, according to a Boise School District spokesman. In March 2019, the former teacher was sentenced to five years on felony probation and 90 days in county jail. In addition, the Boise School District confirmed that the offender’s employment with the school district had been terminated.
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.ktvb.com/4-arrested-in-meridian-idaho-prostitution-sting-police (2020)
- https://klewtv.com/meridian-pd-makes-four-arrests-during-prostitution-sting (2020)
- https://idahonews.com/meridian-pd-makes-four-arrests-during-prostitution-sting (2020)
Web-based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Sex for Sale: ‘Any Man Will Pay for It If He Sees What He Wants”, KBOI-TV 2, November 4 2011.
- https://www.idahostatesman.com/11 Men Allegedly Sougth Sex With Idaho Kids (2018)
- https://www.ktvb.com/local-craigslist-child-sex-sting-operation-nets-10 (2018)
- https://www.boiseweekly.com/trafficked-idaho-anti-trafficking-coalition-tackles-escalating-sex-trade (2018)
- https://www.kivitv.com/ten-suspects-identified-in-boise-area-child-sex-abuse-crackdown (2018)
- https://www.eastidahonews.com/suspected-sex-trafficker-arrested-nine-others-accused-sex-crimes (2018)
- https://www.ktvb.com/boise-pe-teacher-arrested-in-online-teen-sex-sting (2018)
- https://www.idahostatejournal.com/arrested-for-child-sex-abuse-as-a-result-of-joint (2018)
- https://www.ktvb.com/boise-prostitution-sting-arrests-police (2021)
Employment Loss, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.ktvb.com/boise-pe-teacher-arrested-in-online-teen-sex-sting (2018)
- https://idahonews.com/prosecutor-says-boise-pe-teacher-tried-to-have-sex-with-teen (2018)
- Former teacher facing jail time (2019)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- http://www.khq.com/story/man-denies-charges-he-offered-toddler-for-sex (2013)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-id/pr/boise-man-sentenced-producing-and-distributing-child-pornography (2013)
- Prosecutor: Pair forced women into prostitution (2013)
- https://www.oregonlive.com/pacific-northwest-news/idaho_pimp_sentenced_to_5_year (2014)
- https://www.ktvb.com//woman-sentenced-for-her-role-in-prostitution-ring (2014)
- https://www.heraldnet.com/boise-woman-sentenced-to-15-years-for-prostitution-ring (2014)
- https://www.eastidahonews.com/boise-man-pleads-guilty-sex-trafficking-children (2016)
- https://www.kivitv.com/three-women-charged-with-sex-crimes-against-minors (2016)
- https://www.ice.gov/boise-man-receives-4-year-sentence-child-pornography-case (2016)
- https://www.kivitv.com/news/police-man-tried-to-procure-woman-into-prostitution (2016)
- https://www.idahopress.com/idaho-s-first-safe-house-for-child-victims-of-human trafficking (2018)
- https://www.idahostatejournal.com/human-trafficking-investigation-results-in-young-women-being-arrested-for-alleged-prostitution (2018)
- https://idahonews.com/nine-arrested-in-idaho-child-sexual-abuse-investigation (2019)
- https://dailyfly.com/boise-man-sentenced-to-over-six-years-in-prison-for-human-trafficking-and-money-laundering (2022)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- Prostitution on rise in Boise (1981)
- Neighborhood drives out escort service (1995)
- https://police.cityofboise.org/home/news-releases/investigation-results-in-prostitution-arrest (2016)
- https://www.ktvb.com/boise-woman-faces-prostitution-charges (2016)
- https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/crime/article (2016)
- https://idahonews.com/bpd-prostitution-activity-at-boise-bench-motel-leads-to-arrest (2017)
- https://account.idahostatesman.com/boise-man-faces-felony-charges-managing-assaulting-prostitute (2017)
- https://www.kivitv.com/boise-man-arrested-for-pimping-assaulting-prostitute (2017)
- Effort targeting customers of prostitutes is on hold amid lawmakers’ concerns (2018)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: