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Farmington is a city of approximately 47,000 residents located in the Northwest region of the U.S. state of New Mexico, located in San Juan County, NM. Farmington makes up one of the four Metropolitan Statistical Areas in New Mexico. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and greater county area for decades. This activity and its ancillary crimes have resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. Illicit massage businesses (IMB’s) acting as fronts for prostitution and sex trafficking activity have also been significant issues reported in the city and greater county area. For example, in August 2017, the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office conducted an undercover operation at a local massage parlor after complaints of suspected prostitution activity occurring at an illicit massage business (IMB) had been reported to local law enforcement officials. Officers executed a search warrant after a female employee at the massage parlor attempted to solicit an undercover officer for sex. The investigation resulted in the arrest of the IMB’s owner and the prostituted woman on charges of promoting prostitution. The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office collaborated with the New Mexico Attorney General’s Office, the Farmington Police Department, and the Bloomfield Police Department to conduct the undercover operation. According to police, drugs, child abuse, targeted homicide of prostituted women, and child sex abuse material are crimes that commonly occur with commercial sex activity in the city.
In effort to reduce demand for commercial sex in the county, the Farmington Police Department has been known to arrest sex buyers through alternative investigations such as during police raids at local massage parlors or establishments known for serving as fronts for commercial sex activity. Additionally, a number of reverse sting operations have been conducted in the city, targeting individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex. These operations are frequently conducted with the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office. For example, in October 2017, a web-based reverse sting operation was conducted by the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office and the AG’s Office, with assistance from the Farmington Police Department and the Bloomfield Police Department, resulted in the arrest of two men for attempting to buy commercial sex. According to reports, one of the arrested sex buyers had attempted to sexually exploit a 15-year-old girl in exchange for money, and was charged with child solicitation by electronic communication device. In addition, the man also faced child abuse charges for leaving his 4-year-old alone to commit the crime. The other arrested sex buyer was charged with a first offense of soliciting a prostitute, a petty misdemeanor in the state of New Mexico. The identities and images of arrested sex buyers were released by the SJCSO in a press release regarding the investigation.
Farmington has also been a site location for Federal child sex trafficking investigations, such as in the nationwide effort targeting child predators called Operation Broken Heart. These operations “target suspects who: (1) produce, distribute, receive and possess child pornography; (2) engage in online enticement of children for sexual purposes; (3) engage in the sex trafficking of children; and (4) travel across state lines or to foreign countries and sexually abuse children.” For example, in the 2016 investigation, Operation Broken Heart III, the San Juan County Sheriff’s Office arrested seven individuals on child sexual exploitation charges in Farmington. According to reports, the SJCSO made more arrests during the operation than any other law enforcement agency. The sheriff’s office employed three detectives who are part of the task force, which investigates people who solicit sex from minors or attempt to acquire child pornography during the investigation. The sheriff’s office was also the first agency to arrest someone in connection to the operation. As a result of the investigation, in New Mexico, a total of 21 arrests were made and the New Mexico Internet Crimes Against Children Task Force executed 63 search warrants and presented more than 150 cyber safety trainings and three public safety events.
Sex buyers and sex traffickers have also been arrested as a result of alternative investigations or residential reports to local law enforcement in the city. For example, in 1978, a a result of raid at a local brothel, two male sex buyers were arrested on patronizing prostitution charges. The 2017 IMB investigation detailed above, led to a secondary operation that resulted in the arrest of two male sex buyers, one of which was additionally charged with child abuse after having left his four-year-old alone at home to solicit sex from an underage female at the massage parlor.
On June 15, 2018, a then-patrol officer with the New Mexico State Police, conducted a traffic stop in Farmington, during which he came into contact with a 16-year old passenger. The ex-officer requested her phone number, email address, and date of birth. The officer in question then gave her a business card with his personal cell phone number and began texting her shortly after. According to the victim, the officer attempted to solicit her for sex in exchange for drugs. The 16-year-old girl reported the incident to her father who then reported it to police. In response, law enforcement also developed a confidential source (CS) who had prior dealings with the officer in question and she agreed to cooperate. As part of the CS’s cooperation, she allowed law enforcement to use her phone to pretend to be the CS when communicating with the offending officer. In those messages, he devised a plan in which the CS would tell him when she was driving with someone who had methamphetamine. The officer told the CS that he would conduct a traffic stop of the friend’s vehicle, locate the methamphetamine, and provide a portion of the methamphetamine to the CS in exchange for sex. Capehart was unaware that he was communicating this plan to law enforcement and that the CS’s friend would be an undercover agent. In accordance to the plan, the offending officer arrested the undercover agent and located the methamphetamine in their pocket. After booking the undercover agent in jail, in the early morning hours of June 29, 2018, he drove to a park located by the CS’s home in Bloomfield, NM. The offending officer then delivered more than five grams of methamphetamine by bathrooms in the park, which was also located within 1,000 feet of Central Primary Elementary School. Deputies from the SJCSO arrested the officer later that same day. He was initially placed on administrative leave after he was arrested at the Farmington state police office, then resigned about a month later on Aug. 3, 2018. His identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.
Street-Level Reverse Stings, Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.daily-times.com/investigation-leads-7-san-juan-county-arrests (2016)
- https://www.scsun-news.com/two-grant-county-residents-arrested-part-operation-broken-heart (2016)
- https://www.daily-times.com/investigation-leads-7-san-juan-county-arrests (2016)
- Attorney General Balderas Announces Results of National Effort to Lock Up Child Predators (2016)
- https://www.facebook.com/prostitution-sting-leads-to-criminal-charges-and-multiple-arrests (2017)
Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure:
- Police in energy boom towns keep wary eye on prostitution (1978)
- http://www.krqe.com/farmington-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting (2017)
- http://www.newslocker.com/farmington-men-arrested-in-prostitution-sting/ (2017)
- https://www.justice.gov/former-new-mexico-state-police-officer-convicted-distribution-marijuana-and (2021)
- https://www.justice.gov/former-new-mexico-state-police-officer-sentenced-seven-years-prison-distribution (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:
- Two sentenced for prostitution in Farmington (1962)
- Prostitution law constitutional (1982)
- Prostitution in Farmington (1996)
- Carlsbad woman arrested on prostitution charge (1996)
- ABQ worker arrested in internet sex sting (2007)
- Farmington sex sting results in 14 arrests (2007)
- https://www.abqjournal.com/715am-sex-sting-nabs-14-in-farmington.html (2007)
- https://www.abqjournal.com/nm-massage-owner-deputies-violated-civil-rights.html (2013)
- https://www.daily-times.com/woman-faces-drug-and-prostitution-charges (2016)
- https://www.abqjournal.com/woman-faces-drug-and-prostitution-charges.html (2016)
- https://www.daily-times.com/local-teacher-faces-drug-prostitution-charges (2016)
- Woman accused of running illicit NM massage parlors (2022)
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Commercial Sex:
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