Augusta is a city of about 200,000 residents located to the east of Atlanta. It is officially the consolidated city-county of Augusta–Richmond County, and is situated along Interstate 20 on the central eastern border of Georgia, across the Savannah River from South Carolina. It is Georgia’s second-largest city after Atlanta. Prostitution activity has been documented in the city for decades, driving a wide range of related crimes and negative outcomes, resulting in complaints to police from residents and local businesses, and sex trafficking of both adults and children. Among numerous examples is a case in July, 2016, when the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office arrested eleven people in an undercover operation in which calls were placed to people suspected of being involved in prostitution. This operation netted several prostituted persons, a pimp, and numerous people accused of providing transportation for the purpose of prostitution. The Richmond County Sheriff’s Office has released the names, ages, and charges for each of the accused people. In March 2020, a married couple was arrested in Augusta and indicted on charges including Sex Trafficking Conspiracy; Obstruction of a Child Sex Trafficking Investigation; Sex Trafficking of a Child; Coercion and Enticement of a Child to Engage in Sexual Activity; Production of Child Pornography; and Possession of Child Pornography. An FBI investigation in another state had led agents to the couple as a source of child pornography, resulting in the discovery of child pornography on electronic devices in their home and eventually to charges related to their sexual abuse of children for the production of commercial sexual abuse materials (CSAM or “child pornography” in may criminal codes).
Among the responses to these crimes and problems are initiatives intended to reduce the ultimate source of financial incentives driving all prostitution and sex trafficking – consumer-level demand. Reverse sting operations has been conducted in the city. For example, in April 2014, an undercover sting targeting child prostitution netted the arrest of three men, who were charged with criminal attempted child molestation. All three were booked into the Charles B. Webster Detention Center. The sting was a joint operation conducted by the Richmond County Sheriff’s Office and the FBI.
Sex buyers seeking to abuse children have also been arrested and their identities publicized in Augusta. In February, 2021 a man was charged in a federal indictment alleging he transported a minor across state lines to engage in prostitution. The man was accused of knowingly picking up a minor in July, 2019, and taking the minor across state lines to engage in prostitution. The case was investigated by the FBI, and prosecuted for the United States by Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of Georgia and Project Safe Childhood Coordinator Tara M. Lyons. A federal grand jury a indicted the man -at the time employed as a teacher – on federal charges of sex trafficking of a minor; coercion and enticement of a minor to engage in sexual activity; travel with intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct; and transportation with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity. The sex trafficking charge carries a minimum penalty upon conviction of 15 years in prison, and a maximum penalty of life in prison, and there is no parole in the federal system. The indictment alleged that the man “recruited, enticed, harbored, transported, provided, obtained, maintained, patronized, and solicited, by any means, in and affecting interstate commerce, Minor Victim 1, knowing and in reckless disregard of the fact that Minor Victim 1 had not attained the age of 18 years and that Minor Victim 1 would be caused to engage in a commercial sex act.”
- Richmond County Sheriff’s Office
- Federal Bureau of Investigation
- U.S. Attorney’s Office – Southern District of Georgia
Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “5 Arrested in Undercover Sting”, Augusta Chronicle, April 5 2014.
- “Five Arrested in FBI Sex Trafficking Sting in Augusta”, USA Today, April 9 2014.
Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyer:
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-sdga/pr/teacher-charged-federal-complaint-transporting-minor-sex (2021)
- https://www.wbtw.com/crime/augusta-woman-charged-with-sex-trafficking/ (2021)
- https://www.wrdw.com/2021/03/05/graniteville-man-faces-more-charges-in-sex-case-involving-minor/ (2021)
- https://coastalcourier.com/news/teacher-indicted-for-sex-trafficking/ (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Augusta Man Faces Charge of Sex Trafficking a Child”, Augusta Chronicle, September 3 2013.
- “Child Sex Trafficking Suspect to Be Held without Bond”, Augusta Chronicle, September 10 2013.
- “2 Plead Guilty in Sex Trafficking of Minor”, Augusta Chronicle, January 13 2014.
- “Man Pleads Guilty in Augusta Sex Trafficking Ring”, CBS/WMAZ-TV 13, May 13 2014.
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Death Penalty Phase of Murder Trial Begins Today”, Edgefield Daily, November 15 2010.
- “South Carolina High Court Reverses Augusta Man’s Murder Sentence”, Augusta Chronicle, January 20 2014.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Prostitution, A Dilemma for Police; Law Enforcement Officials Say the Crime Is Not a High Priority Because of Shortage of Officers,” Augusta Chronicle, October 11 1998.
- “Officer Gets Tough on Augusta’s Escort Services,” Augusta Chronicle, March 15 2002.
- “Escort Service Arrests Made,” Augusta Chronicle, March 11 2003.
- “Prostitution Suspects, Charges Released; No Children Arrested in Augusta Area”, Augusta Chronicle, July 30 2013.
- “Augusta Prostitution Sting’s 11 Arrests Fizzle in Court”, Augusta Chronicle, October 8 2014.
- https://www.wrdw.com/Eleven-people-arrested-in-undercover-prostitution-operation (2016)
- https://www.wjbf.com/news/multi-agency-inspection-at-gordon-highway-inn-in-augusta/ (2017)
- https://www.wjbf.com/news/crime-news/31-people-arrested-during-drug-prostitution-bust-in-madison-co/ (2019)