Laurel County, KY

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

Laurel County is located in southeastern Kentucky and has a population of almost 61,000. The city of London is the county’s populaiton center and government seat.  Other noteworthy communities in the county include parts of Corbin (most of which lies in both Whitley and Knox counties).  Prostitution and sex trafficking have been well-documented within the county.  This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking. For example, in November, 2019, a four-year investigation into drug trafficking and prostitution in eastern Kentucky resulted in the arrest of a man charged with conspiracy to distribute oxycodone and conspiracy to engage in sex trafficking. The criminal complaint alleges that a drug dealer and pimp in Laurel County ran a sex trafficking ring that exploited at least 40 women and girls, forced into prostitution to pay their drug debts to him. The investigation found on a cell phone messages related to procuring females for sex buyers, and discussions of their “performance,” looks, and addictions. The messages came to light after Kentucky State Police obtained a search warrant for the pimps home, cars and person. Law enforcement officers confiscated guns, 125 suspected OxyContin pills, other unidentified pills, more than $44,000 in cash, and a cell phone. On the phone, according to the affidavit, were over 1,400 pictures, many of them “pornographic.”

Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. For example, in March 2019, a man was found guilty of solicitation of prostitution after he used a cell phone to text who he thought was a 17-year-old female in an attempt to solicit sexual abuse of a minor in exchange for money. He originally faced charges of promoting human trafficking with a minor under 18 years of age and promoting use of an electronic device to induce a minor to engage in sexual activity. Both are listed as Class D felonies, but the former is enhanced to a Class C felony if the victim is under the age of 18. The man allegedly agreed to pay $150 for “full service” with the teenager, but the person he communicated with was not a teenager, but instead an undercover police officer conducting a reverse sting.

Some local arrests of sex buyers are the result of allegations of crimes against real victims, rather than the product of reverse stings using undercover police decoys.  For example, in July 2017, Corbin Police Department officers arrested two men following an investigation into a complaint from an unidentified male that his sister was being held against her will. Officers responded to the scene and found an adult woman and a 16-year-old with the two male subjects. One victim had text messages showing that one of the men offered her money and drugs for sex with both women. The teenager also told the man how old she was but that did not dissuade the buyer. The men were each charged with second-degree unlawful imprisonment, prostitution and third-degree unlawful transaction with a minor. Each defendant’s bond was set at $10,000 cash with the additional condition that they have no contact with the victims and not be within 500 yards of a school.

In April 2019, deputies arrested a 71-year-old man in Laurel County on charges of the solicitation of prostitution. The arrest occurred when the sex buyer said he had picked up another male subject on Interstate and asked him if he would exchange money for sex with him. While the sex buyer was outside of the vehicle undressing, the unknown male subject stole the vehicle and left the scene. The sex buyer’s identity was disclosed.

In November, 2019, in the aforementioned sex trafficking case involving drug trafficking and prostitution in eastern Kentucky, a man paid a pimp several times per week to send two of women at a time to his room in a hotel in London. He was accused of paying up to $5,000 per week for sex with trafficked women and girls, and participating in a plan to pay for Oxycodone and other drugs for the victims.

Key Partners

  • Laurel County Sheriff’s Office
  • Corbin Police Department
  • Laurel Circuit Court
State Kentucky
Type County
Population 60631
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