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Benton County is a county of approximately 92,000 residents located in Western Oregon. Situated along the Interstate 5 corridor, its county seat is the city of Corvallis. It also contains parts of Albany. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented in the county. Among the more serious crimes associated with the commercial sex market is child sex trafficking. For example, in 2017, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office (BCSO) assisted the FBI, Eugene Police Department, and Portland Police Department in the arrest of a woman who was accused of trafficking her 3-year-old daughter. A man (who was also arrested for possession and receipt of child sexual abuse material) offered $1,000 or $6,000 to sexually abuse her child. The woman claims that she played along but only so she could rob the man. She didn’t offer any evidence besides her testimony that she didn’t intend to traffic her child.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by law enforcement as a strategy for prevention and response. To identify and apprehend local sex buyers, the BCSO has conducted reverse stings, either alone or in collaboration with city police departments. For example, in June 2013, eight male sex buyers between the ages of 21 and 51 were arrested in a single operation. The web-based reverse sting was conducted by the Corvallis Police Department with assistance from the BCSO and Albany Police Department. Undercover investigators posted a decoy advertisement to a website known for facilitating commercial sex, and over the course of the 10-hour operation, received many phone calls from people trying to meet with a prostituted woman. After the men arrived and made explicit money offers for sexual services, they were arrested. The identities, images, ages, and hometowns of arrested sex buyers were released to media outlets. All eight suspects were either booked and released from the Benton County Jail or cited and released at the scene.
In 2017, the BCSO helped the Richland and Kennewick Police Departments conduct a two-day reverse sting operation in Richland, resulting in the arrest of four prostituted women and six male sex buyers, one of which was the owner of a Boardman large-scale dairy farm.
In January 2018, a detective sergeant at the BCSO gathered evidence about the level of prostitution and sex trafficking activity in Benton County by placing two separate online advertisements for paid sex at the beginning of the year. He found over 200 men and women responded and indicated a desire to engage in paid sex. The operation demonstrated how prevalent prostitution is in Benton County and Oregon as a whole.
In February 2018, detectives posted an online advertisement to Backpage.com. Of the 70 people who responded to the ad, 10 arrived at a local Rodeway Inn. They were arrested after meeting with undercover detectives and affirming their intention to pay for sex. Each of the men were taken to the Benton County Jail, where they were booked and released. The identities, images, ages, and hometowns of arrested sex buyers were released to media outlets. Two months later, three of the men pleaded guilty to commercial sexual solicitation during separate hearings. Each was sentenced to six months of bench probation and 40 hours of community service. The judge also ordered each man to pay $250 in fines, forfeit any money seized by law enforcement during the incident, and undergo a mental health evaluation and seek any recommended treatment. As of April 2018, the other seven men had entered not guilty pleas to the charge against them and their cases are pending.
In April 2019, the BCSO conducted a two-day prostitution operation that led to the arrest of seven men at a Corvallis hotel. Detectives posed as a prostituted woman online. Once the men agreed to pay a fee to engage in sexual conduct, they officially committed the crime of commercial sexual solicitation and were arrested for a class A misdemeanor. Over two days, over 100 people responded to the ad to pay for sex with a 19- to 24-year-old woman. Of those, seven arrived at a local hotel and were taken into custody. With limited beds available at the Benton County Jail, the seven men were booked and released with citations.
The BCSO conducted another web-based reverse sting in February 2021. Two sex buyers were arrested for soliciting an undercover offer who they believed to be a 15-year-old girl online and taking steps to engage in sexual contact with her.
In December 2021, yet another web-based sting operation resulted in over 100 responses to an online ad placed by undercover officers. Eight men arrived at a hotel to complete the transactions and were arrested. Their identities were included in news releases. In a press release about the operation, the Benton County Sheriff’s Office said:
“This operation demonstrates again, how prevalent prostitution is in Benton County and Oregon. Prostitution is a dangerous criminal enterprise, closely related to human trafficking, narcotics, violence, and sexual assault. Prostitution also fuels the growth of modern-day slavery by providing a façade behind which traffickers for sexual exploitation operate.”
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure, Community Service:
- “An Albany First: Online Prostitution Sting”, Albany Democrat-Herald, May 19 2012.
- “Man Fined in Prostitution Sting”, Albany Democrat-Herald, June 15 2012.
- Prostitution Sting Nets Five from Corvallis (2012)
- “Prostitution Sting Yields Three More Pleas in Court”, Albany Democrat-Herald, June 21 2012.
- “Corvallis Man Pleads Guilty in Albany Prostitution Case”, Albany Democrat-Herald, July 30 2012.
- “Corvallis Man Pleads Guilty, Fined $1,000 for Soliciting Prostitution”, Albany Democrat-Herald, August 14 2012.
- Police: Prostitution sting a success (2012)
- “8 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KEZI-TV 9, June 9 2013.
- “Corvallis Police: 8 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting, After Agreeing to Pay for Sex”, Columbus Republic, June 9 2013.
- “Prostitution Sting Corrals Eight Men”, Eugene Register-Guard, June 9 2013.
- “Police Discuss Prostitution Sting Set-Up”, Albany Democrat-Herald, June 13 2013.
- https://www.facebook.com/BentonCoSheriff/10-men-arrested-for-commercial-sexual-solicitationcorvallis-ore-the-benton-county (2018)
- http://www.kezi.com/content/news/10-men-arrested-in-Corvallis-prostitution-sting (2018)
- https://www.corvallisadvocate.com/2018/benco-prostitution-sting-entrapment-style-law-enforcement/ (2018)
- https://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/benton-county-sheriff-s-office-arrests-men-in-prostitution-sting (2018)
- http://kval.com/10-cited-in-online-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis-there-is-problem-in-our-community (2018)
- http://www.kptv.com/sheriff-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis-leads-to-arrests-of-10-men (2018)
- http://www.gazettetimes.com/three-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-enter-guilty-pleas (2018)
- https://kval.com/10-cited-in-online-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis-there-is-problem-in-our-community (2018)
- https://www.kezi.com/Seven-Men-Arrested-in-Prostitution-Sting (2019)
- https://www.kptv.com/news/deputies-seven-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting-in-corvallis (2019)
- https://katu.com/2-oregon-men-charged-in-benton-county-online-child-sex-sting (2021)
- https://nbc16.com/news/local/8-men-arrested-at-corvallis-hotel-in-prostitution-sting (2021)
- https://kpic.com/news/local/8-men-arrested-at-corvallis-hotel-in-prostitution-sting (2021)
- https://ourcommunitynow.com/corvallis-or/sheriffs-nab-8-men-in-prostitution-sting-at-corvallis-hotel (2021)
- https://www.newsbreak.com/8-men-arrested-at-corvallis-hotel-in-prostitution-sting (2021)
- https://spotonoregon.com/willamette-valley/8-men-arrested-at-corvallis-hotel-in-prostitution.html (2021)
Background on Child Sexual Exploitation:
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking: