Fruitland, ID

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

Fruitland is a city in southwestern Idaho of approximately 5,000 residents, located in Payette County. It lies along U.S. Route 95 in the Treasure Valley of southwest Idaho, about 50 miles west of Boise, and borders the state of Oregon. It is part of the Ontario, OR Micropolitan Area. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented within the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies. Prostitution has been documented in the county dating back to the early 1900s. In 1908, Payette County (then in Canyon County; Payette County was formed in 1917), attempted to prohibit prostitution and liquor traffic in conjunction with similar efforts that were occurring across the state at the time. The City of Payette was too small to have a “red-light” district, but it had a brothel at the edge of town, and in 1908 the Payette Independent reported that two sheepherders had been severely beaten and robbed as they left the brothel. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and targeted violence against sex buyers, prostituted persons, and victims of sex trafficking. For example, in March 2012, an Idaho State Police trooper stopped a man from Washington state at a rest stop in Payette County and arrested him for driving without privileges. At the Payette County Jail, his passenger, a 15-year-old girl, was found to be a ward of the state of Washington and a runaway who was being sex trafficked. The man was prosecuted and sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for his role in sex trafficking.

In committee hearings for a human trafficking bill in 2018, a state representative brought a number of child sex trafficking survivors to testify. They testified that sex buyers were just as dangerous as sex traffickers and frequently abused and raped their victims. One survivor testified that while she was being trafficked as a child, she was choked, tied up, cut with knives, and then penetrated with sharp objects by an abusive male sex buyer. A 15-year-old Payette girl told the committee she had been sex trafficked at the age of 13 by her mother’s sex trafficker/pimp and emphasized that she had been sex trafficked because there was an increase in demand for commercial sex in the area.

Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. The Fruitland Police Department has been known to investigate and arrest suspected sex buyers as a result of tips from community members to local law enforcement. For example, in 2019, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received a tip from a Payette County law enforcement agency that alleged a former Fruitland police officer had solicited underage boys for sex acts on social media. According to reports, the WCSO stated that the cases went back as far as 2017 and took place in Fruitland and in Payette. The case was passed to the WCSO to avoid conflict of interest. According to the criminal complaint, the former officer was soliciting up to four different minors in Payette County. The offender allegedly used multiple social media accounts to contact the youths, including Instagram and Snapchat. The former officer was employed as a Fruitland Police Officer in both a reserve and a full-time capacity between April 2015 and June 2019 and resigned from the Fruitland Police Department in June 2019 while he was a reserve officer. All of the offenses were believed to have occurred while the former officer was off duty. In addition, the offender was involved with numerous youth-based organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club in Payette and Ontario School District, where he was terminated in June after working for a few months. As a result of the investigation, the offender resigned from the Fruitland Police Department – at that time he was a reserve officer. In May 2020, the offender was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but could potentially be granted released after one year, and would complete the remainder of his sentence on probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender upon his release. The offender’s identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.

Loss of employment and identity disclosure are also consequences of buying sex in the city. For example, in February 2019, the Fruitland High School principal and boys’ basketball coach was arrested and charged with three misdemeanors, stemming from allegations of sexual harassment of a female staff member at the school, court documents show. The charges included two counts of sexual battery and one count of solicitation of prostitution, both misdemeanor charges. According to reports, the man was hired by the school district in 1998 and had served as the school’s boys basketball coach for 19 years and had been the Fruitland High School Principal since 2010. As a result of his arrest, he was placed on leave amid a criminal investigation by the Idaho State Police. However, in April 2019, the Fruitland School District announced the former principle’s official resignation. During the third day of the trial at the Canyon County Courthouse, the offender testified that he and the victim, an adult woman who had just started working at the Fruitland High School in August 2018, had ongoing conversations from about September to November of that year on multiple platforms. Both attorneys asked questions based on over 50 pages of email conversations between the offender and the victim. The conversations included both parties talking about sexually explicit acts. Fitch said the two started their conversation with texts in September, which quickly escalated to being sexual in nature. The conversations moved to email and eventually to Google Hangouts and Snapchat. Only emails were recovered during the investigation. According to a report from the Idaho Education News, the woman had only responded to some of the emails because she felt pressured by the offender, who was also her boss. The victim claims the former principle grabbed her in her office at the school, placed her hand on his groin in the teacher lounge, and offered to pay her $300 for sexual favors when she attempted to call off the interactions. If the former principle was found guilty of the charges, he faced up to one year maximum in the county jail for each charge. The sex buyer’s identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.

Key Sources

Loss of Employment, Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:

State Idaho
Type City
Population 5390
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