Laredo is a city of approximately 260,000 residents, located in Webb County, Texas along the Mexican border. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been persistent and visible problems in the city for decades. Among the serious related crimes have been the serial killing of persons engaged in selling sex. For example, in September 2018, a veteran U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent was arrested and charged with crimes associated with the murder or at least four people in Laredo, allegedly preying on women with drug problems. The man was accused of killing three women and one transgender woman in a two-week span. A fifth alleged potential victim thwarted his “dangerous” plans for her when she escaped from him at a gas station and alerted police. The serial killer reportedly confessed to the crimes on September 15, 2018, and was arraigned on four counts of murder and one count of kidnapping, and was held in jail on more than $2 million bond. Court documents from a separate, unrelated case showed that the man reportedly specialized in narcotics and human trafficking and was at one point in charge of patrolling I-95 and intercepting vehicles suspected of trafficking drugs and humans. At least one of his victims was later found along that same route. Investigators said they had “very strong evidence” that the man was responsible for the deaths of four women who were “working as prostitutes.” One of the victims was a transgender woman, according to the Webb County District Attorney.
In an effort to identify and apprehend the city’s sex buyers, the Laredo Police Department’s Narcotics and Vice Unit frequently conducts street-level reverse stings. Operations typically utilize an undercover female officer, who serves as a decoy in an area known for commercial sex sales. When johns attempt to solicit the officer, they are arrested. Police routinely release the names and photos of offenders to the local media. For example, in June 2019, eleven men were arrested and charged with prostitution during a sting operation by the Laredo Police Department Narcotics Unit conducted at the 3600 block of San Bernardo and San Agustin Avenue between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m one night. Mug shots and identifying information about all of the arrested men were included in news releases.
In September, 2019 an off-duty Border Patrol agent was arrested for soliciting prostitution after a several month investigation led by the Laredo Police Department, in conjunction with the FBI and Customs and Border Patrol Office of Professional Responsibility. Through the course of the investigation, the agent was identified as a person to have solicited an illegal alien for prostitution. The case was then presented to the Webb County District Attorney’s Office who determined there was sufficient evidence to secure the warrant of arrest. The man was booked and processed then remanded to Webb County Jail in lieu of a $500 bond.
- Laredo Police Department
- Webb County-Zapata County District Attorney’s Office
- Webb County Sheriff’s Office
- Reverse Stings and Shaming:
- “20 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KGNS-TV 8, October 13 2008.
- “LPD Narcotics and Vice Unit Arrest 12 Men in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, Laredo Buzz, March 27 2010.
- “Operation John: LPD Narcotics and Vice Unit Arrest 10 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Laredo Buzz, May 28 2010.
- http://laredobuzz.com/2010/05/operation-john-lpd-narcotics-and-vice-unit-arrest-10-men-in-prostitution-sting/laredo-texas (2010)
- “LPD Narcotics & Vice Squad Round Up Seven ‘Johns’ on City’s West Side”, Laredo Buzz, February 28 2011.
- https://www.kgns.tv/content/news/Ten-men-arrested-in-prostitution-bust-511085442.html (2019)
- Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “S.A. Girl Testifies Boyfriend Forced Her into Prostitution”, San Antonio Express-News, October 1 2009.
- https://www.detroitnews.com/story/news/nation/2018/09/15/sheriff-border-agent-suspected-killing-women (2018)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/news/article/LPD-Man-forced-woman-to-engage-in-prostitution (2021)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/insider/article/Affidavit-Suspect-forced-woman-to-have-sex (2021)
- Background on Prostitution and Related Violence in the Area:
- https://laredobuzz.com/LAREDODOWNTOWNPROSTITUTIONDETAIL.htm (2008)
- http://laredobuzz.com/2009/06/lpd-prostitution-sting-nets-15-arrests/laredo-texas (2009)
- “Laredo Police Combat Prostitution”, Laredo Sun, May 2 2010.
- https://www.lmtonline.com/local/crime/article/LPD-Mami-Chulas-employee-arrested-for-public-10974064.php (2017)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/local/crime/article/Man-woman-arrested-on-prostitution-charges-in-Laredo (2018)
- https://www.thedailybeast.com/serial-killer-juan-david-ortiz-allegedly-preyed-on-women-with-drug-problems (2018)
- https://www.texasmonthly.com/articles/serial-killer-border-patrol/ (2019)
- http://www.laredopd.com/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/2018-Annual-Report-Final.pdf (2019)