Aiken County, SC
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Aiken County is located in the Western portion of South Carolina, and has a population of roughly 165,000. It is part of the Augusta/Richmond County, GA metropolitan area, which is directly across the Savannah River (which marks the border between Georgia and South Carolina) from Aiken County. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the communities within the county, and in its unincorporated areas. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates result in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream that motivates all prostitution and sex trafficking. At least two reverse stings have been conducted in the county. In July, 2005 an undercover operation by the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office led to the arrest of six men along Highway 421 in the towns of Gloverville and Langley, after receiving complaints from citizens about the activity along the Highway. A similar operation in June 2008 resulted in five arrested sex buyers. The identities of the arrested sex buyers were included in news releases after both operations. At that time, a conviction for prostitution in South Carolina carried penalties of a fine up to $200 or imprisonment up to 30 days for a 1st offense; fines up to $1000 or imprisonment up to six months for a 2nd; and fines up to $3000 or imprisonment for not less than one year, or both, for 3rd and subsequent offenses.
Some sex buyer arrests are the result of investigations of offenses against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using fictitious decoys. For example, one case began in February 2020 when federal agents in a Texas child pornography investigation discovered 700 photos of an individual minor produced at a residence in Evans, SC. A search of the home uncovered evidence that the man, with the aid of his then-wife, had committed child sex trafficking. The victim testified during a trial that the man coerced the child into participating in child pornography and, eventually, sex trafficking through fear, threats of harm, physical abuse, and intimidation. During the investigation, another man – former Aiken County teacher – admitted to responding to the trafficker’s online advertisement of the child victim. The sex buyer was convicted of child sexual exploitation of the victim and was sentenced to 11 years in federal prison, and ordered to pay $50,000 in restitution and register as a sex offender upon release, where he will remain under supervision for the rest of his life. The school district terminated the man’s employment at the Ridge Spring-Monetta High School after learning of the federal charges transporting a minor across state lines for paid sexual abuse.
- Aiken County Sheriff’s Office
- Consolidated School District of Aiken County
Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- http://www.wistv.com/story/3636603/aiken-county-cracks-down-on-prostitution (2005)
- “Eight Charged in Prostitution Sting,” Aiken Standard, July 26 2005.
- “Five Men Arrested in Prostitution Case,” Augusta Chronicle, June 24 2008.
- “Valley Prostitution Sting Nets Five,” McClatchy-Tribune Regional News, June 24 2008.
Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure, Employment Loss:
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdga/pr/former-teacher-sentenced-federal-prison-after-admitting-child-sexual-exploitation (2022)
- https://www.augustachronicle.com/evans-man-sentenced-prison-child-sex-trafficking-case (2022)
- https://www.augustachronicle.com/former-sc-teacher-sentenced-federal-prison-child-sex-exploitation-case (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- https://newspaperarchive.com/aiken-standard-jul-01-2003-p-1/ (2003)
- https://www.aikenstandard.com/four-sentenced-in-prostitution-ring-alleged-sex-ring (2013)
- https://www.thestate.com/news/local/crime/html (2015)
- http://www.datelinecarolina.org/springdale-prostitution-bust?clienttype=mobile (2015)
- https://www.aikenstandard.com/police-bookings-for-nov/article (2016)
- https://www.aikenstandard.com/n-a-woman-faces-counts-of-prostitution/article (2016)
- https://www.cbs17.com/woman-hit-with-21-charges-of-prostitution-just-as-masters-gets-underway/ (2016)
- https://www.aikenstandard.com/news/n-a-woman-charged-in-prostitution-sting/article 2016
- https://www.wjbf.com/news/north-augusta-woman-facing-multiple-prostitution-charges (2016)
- Trial of Columbia County couple reflects a sex trafficking problem hasn’t gone away (2021)
- Columbia County man convicted on all charges in child sex trafficking case (2021)
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