Fort Madison, IA

Tactics Used

Auto Seizure
Buyer Arrests
Community Service
Employment Loss
Identity Disclosure
IT Based Tactics
John School
License Suspension
Neighborhood Action
Public Education
Reverse Stings
SOAP Orders
Web Stings

Fort Madison is a city within, and the county seat of, Lee County, Iowa. Its population was approximately 10,000 at the time of the 2020 census.  Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. For example, in December, 2018, a Lee County jury heard the case against a man charged with pandering for prostitution after a “day spa” business he operated in Fort Madison was investigated in 2017. It was alleged that the defendant had placed ads on, a site known for paid advertisements for prostitution and trafficking, and advertised on Craig’s List and Google. The prosecution produced seven emails to the day spa discussing the purchase of sex acts. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market is sex trafficking, and related crimes have included weapons offenses and the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often referred to in state criminal codes as “child pornography”).

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and demand reduction tactics have been used in the city. For example, in August, 2022, a Fort Madison restaurant worker was arrested following an investigation of a 15-year-old girl he had paid for sexual abuse.   He was charged with sexual abuse in the third degree, prostitution, and possession of images depicting a minor in a sex act. According to court records the girl was using adult websites to meet men. Documents showed she would then exchanged phone numbers or Snapchat usernames with these men to continue a conversation. Police also reported the girl said she was paid for sex acts by the men. Searches were done at the man’s home and workplace after his arrest. Police found and seized electronic devices and storage media, and officers found digital images of women and girls in various stages of undressing while using the restroom at a Fort Madison restaurant taken between July 2020 and August 2021. The man admitted to knowing about the camera, and said it was placed within the trash can in bathroom for about seven months. He told the detective the camera was motion activated and that its files were saved on his cellphone. The storage card on the cellphone showed videos of eight separate victims, including a white female child under the age of 10, wearing a pink Mickey Mouse shirt, who had her genitalia exposed while using the restroom. Additional charges were filed against the man after the findings, including 14 counts of invasion of privacy, each an aggravated misdemeanor; purchase/possession of a depiction of a minor in sex acts, an aggravated misdemeanor; and dominion/control of a firearm/off weapon by domestic abuse offender, a Class D felony. The investigation continued, and police said more charges were expected from the recordings from the device in the restroom. Nine firearms and ammunition were found in the search of the man’s residence. The offender was initially held at the Lee County Sheriff’s Office.

Key Partners

  • Fort Madison Police Department
State Iowa
Type City
Population 10407
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