Mesa County, CO

Tactics Used

Reverse stings
Shaming
Auto seizure
Community service
Public education
Neighborhood action
SOAP orders
John school
Letters
Cameras
Web stings
License suspension

Mesa County is located along Colorado’s border with Utah, west of Denver along Interstate 70.  The county seat and largest city is Grand Junction. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented local problems. For example, in 2008, a well-known brothel, Fuji Oriental Massage, was seized and later auctioned by the IRS after law enforcement determined that the property had been used in the commission of crime, for which the brothel owners and operators were also convicted. Local sex trafficking cases include a 2012 case in which 14 people were arrested for involvement in a human-trafficking ring that brought teenage girls to Grand Junction and other Colorado cities for prostitution. The leaders were charged with trafficking of children, pimping of a child, and inducement of child prostitution. The four key traffickers allegedly recruited five girls, all under the age of 18, to perform acts of prostitution for a six-month period in 2012. The girls were brought to hotel rooms in Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Denver, Boulder and Lakewood to use drugs and alcohol and perform sexual acts for money, according to the indictment. Eight additional people named in the indictment were charged with providing a place for the incidents of prostitution to occur and/or driving the girls to places where they were exploited. In addition to such evidence of prostitution and child sex trafficking, and rape of exploited minors, Grand Junction has also documented one case of a prostituted woman who was murdered in 2007. She advertised through online ads, and the person who was last known to have seen her alive was a sex buyer.

In their efforts to address such serious problems stemming from commercial sex activity and related crime, police have employed tactics to reduce consumer-level demand. For example, in 2013, police arrested a man on four charges, including patronizing a prostituted child, soliciting for child prostitution, pandering of a child and sexual assault on a child. The man was arrested on allegations he arranged to pay $100 for sex at a Clifton motel with a 14-year-old girl, who was pimped via Craigslist by another man. While perhaps not traditional reverse sting operations, the investigations, arrests, and the release of identities of at least three buyers of sex with children represents proactive attempts to hold at least some johns accountable, and perhaps to deter others.

In October, 2016 a web-based reverse sting was conducted as part of a national operation targeting criminals involved in sex trafficking of children. Six local men were arrested in Mesa County after contacting undercover law enforcement agents posing as 14-year-old children on Craigslist, and making arrangements to meet for the purpose of having sex. Among the charges were luring a child over the internet, child enticement, patronizing a prostituted child, and soliciting prostitution. The men were all arrested on Thursday, October 13 and Friday, October 14 after they arrived at locations where they allegedly agreed to meet the 14-year-old boys and girls for sex. Two of the six men had prior offenses and were registered as sex offenders, and all of the suspects were taken to the Mesa County jail.  The Grand Junction Police Department, the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office, the Fruita Police Department, the Colorado State Patrol, the Colorado Bureau of Investigation, the 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office, and the Federal Bureau of Investigation worked together on the sting operation. The Mesa County effort was a part of Operation Cross Country, an annual national effort focused on underage victims of prostitution.

In April 2019, law enforcement personnel arrested 10 people over three days in a multi-agency undercover operation targeting people seeking to purchase sex with children. The operation involved undercover officers posing online as youths offering to have sex, or adults arranging for children to have sex with suspects. Police placed ads on sites including skipthegames.com and Cityxguide.com. While the ages listed were 19 as required by the sites, the ensuing conversations leading to several arrests involved discussions arranging to have sex with children. Some of the conversations involved undercover personnel posing as mothers making their daughters available for purchased sex, with the age of the daughters ranging between 12 and 14 years.  Police worked with two hotels that agreed to partner on the operations, and some of the arrests were made on hotel premises after arrangements were made to meet suspects there.  Six people were arrested for allegedly making such arrangements with undercover officers. Three were issued misdemeanor summonses for prostitution. One more person was arrested on a warrant for failure to appear, in connection with a recent arrest by the Mesa County Sheriff’s Office involving an alleged sexual assault on a 14-year-old victim.  The man was also held on suspicion of violating a protection order by communicating with the victim. The names, ages, and charges associated with all of the arrested individuals were posted in news releases.  Charges included soliciting for child prostitution, criminal attempt of sexual assault on a child;  soliciting for child prostitution, internet luring of a child with intent of sexual contact/exploitation, pandering a child, patronizing a prostituted child, drug possession and distribution, and weapons possession by a repeat offender. Collaborating on the operation were the Grand Junction and Palisade police departments, the Colorado State Patrol, Colorado Bureau of Investigation, Homeland Security Investigations, the U.S. Marshals Service, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

Key Partners

  • Mesa County Sheriff’s Office
  • Mesa County District Attorney’s Office
  • Grand Junction Police Department
  • Fruita Police Department
  • Palisade Police Department
  • Colorado State Patrol
  • Colorado Bureau of Investigation
  • 21st Judicial District Attorney’s Office
  • Federal Bureau of Investigation
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • U.S. Marshals Service

Key Sources

 

 

 

 

State Colorado
Type County
Population 148513
Location
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