Mesa County, CO

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

Mesa County is a county of approximately 156,000 residents located along Colorado’s border with Utah, west of Denver along Interstate 70. The county seat and largest city is Grand Junction, CO. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented problems in the county, and have generated numerous complaints by community member to the police. 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 “nuisance property” had been used in the commission of crime, for which the brothel owners and operators were also convicted.

Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and child sexual abuse materials (CSAM). For example, in 2012, 14 people were arrested for involvement in an underage sex trafficking operation that transported teenage girls to Grand Junction and other Colorado cities for purposes of commercial sexual exploitation. The leaders were charged with trafficking of children, pimping of a child, and inducement of child prostitution. The four key traffickers allegedly lured five teenage girls, all under the age of 18, who were sexually exploited for a six-month period in 2012. The girls were transported to hotel rooms in Grand Junction, Glenwood Springs, Denver, Boulder, and Lakewood, were provided with drugs and alcohol, and sexually exploited in exchange 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 victims to places where they were sexually exploited. In addition to such evidence of prostitution, child sex trafficking, and rape of exploited minors, there has been at least one documented case of targeted homicide. In 2007, a Grand Junction woman was reported missing and three days later officials found her car in flames. Upon further investigation, police found that the woman had been operating four businesses, three of which were legitimate and the fourth was an “escort” service in which she advertised through online ads. Police were able to use the online advertisement to track the responding sex buyer, who police determined to be the last person known to have seen her alive. After her remains were found in 2012, police had evidence that led to the sex buyer’s indictment and eventual conviction for first degree murder, felony murder, second-degree murder for knowingly causing her death, and kidnapping.

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 October 2015, five men were arrested in Mesa County in a web-based reverse sting operation targeting online commercial sexual exploitation of children. In October 2016, a web-based reverse sting was conducted as part of a national operation targeting criminals involved in sex trafficking of children called, Operation Cross Country VIII. 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 commercial sexual exploitation. Among the charges were luring a child over the internet, child enticement, patronizing a prostituted child, and soliciting prostitution. The men were all arrested over a period of two days from October 14, 2016 to October 15, 2016, upon their arrival to the predetermined locations. Two of the six men had prior offenses and were registered as sex offenders. All of the suspects were arrested and transported 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 participated in the sting operation.

In April 2019, law enforcement personnel arrested 10 individuals over three days in a multi-agency undercover operation targeting people seeking to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. The operation involved undercover officers posing online as youths offering to have sex, or adults arranging to sexually exploit their own children with other individuals. Police placed ads on sites including and While the ages listed were 19 as required by the sites, the ensuing conversations leading to several arrests involved discussions arranging to sexually exploit minors in exchange for money. Some of the conversations involved undercover personnel posing as mothers commercially sexually exploiting their ‘daughters’ online. 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 Police Department, Palisade Police DepartmentColorado State PatrolColorado Bureau of InvestigationHomeland Security InvestigationsU.S. Marshals ServiceFederal Bureau of Investigation, and the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office.

In 2021, local law enforcement agencies, including the MCSO and the GJPD, arrested seven suspects in a two-day operation to that targeted internet sex predators in and around the Mesa County area. The undercover operation consisted of highly trained investigators posting decoy child sexual exploitation ads on several websites, social media, and apps. According to the Mesa County Sheriff Todd Rowell,

“This operation sends a clear message to anyone who thinks they can exploit our children in our community – we will catch you, you will go to jail, and you will be prosecuted. The Mesa County Sheriff’s Office and our law enforcement partners are committed to working together to find people who would harm our children.”

The seven men were arrested on various child sexual exploitation charges such as, soliciting for child prostitution, criminal attempt of sexual assault on a child victim less than 15 years at least 4-year difference in age, criminal attempt to patronizing a prostituted child, possession of a schedule I/II controlled substance DM1, prohibited use of a weapon, and possession of drug paraphernalia, internet sexual exploitation of a child, internet luring of a child, contributing to the delinquency of a minor, criminal attempt of sexual assault, and cyber crime. The identities and images of arrested offenders were released by law enforcement to local media outlets.

Sex buyers and sex traffickers have also been arrested as a result of alternative investigations and/or through residential complaints to local law enforcement. For example, in 2014, 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 to sexually exploit a 14-year-old girl at a Clifton motel, who was being sex trafficked/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 sex buyers accountable, and perhaps to deter others. In August 2021, the owner of a pawn shop was arrested and charged with multiple felonies, including theft charges, Pawnbroker Prohibited Acts, and soliciting prostitution. Rumors of illegal activity at the shop had circulated for years, but police had no evidence of wrongdoing. That changed when the Sheriff’s Office received multiple allegations that the pawn shop owner was soliciting prostitution from homeless women. Investigators placed the shop under surveillance and found that other illicit activities were occurring, leading to the execution of multiple search warrants. Upon executing the search warrants, suspicions of illegal activity were confirmed and the sex buyer was arrested and charged.

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:

Sex Buyer Arrests, Identity Disclosure, Cameras:

Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM and Drug Offenses in the Area:

Background on Prostitution in the Area:

  • Mesa County Jail Bookings (1995)
  • “Online Sex Ads: Women or Girls?” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, June 24 2008.
  • “Fuji Massage Busted for Alleged Prostitution-Related Crimes,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, November 20 2008.
  • “Accused Grand Junction Pimp Made Thousands, Police Say,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, December 2 2008.
  • “DA: Fuji Johns Unlikely to Be Charged,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, December 3 2008.
  • “Grand Junction ‘Johns’ Leave Credit Card Trail,” Aspen Times, December 3 2008.
  • “Parlor Sting Months in the Making,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, December 6 2008.
  • “Case Stronger against Fuji Oriental Massage Owner, Prosecutors Say,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, December 26 2008.
  • “New Ordinance to Regulate Grand Junction’s Massage Parlors,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, February 4 2009.
  • “For Ex-Fuji Customers, It’s Call Cops or Be Called, Police Say They Have 1,000 People They Want to Talk To,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, May 5 2009.
  • “Man Guilty as Pimp for Ex-Fiancée’s Prostitution,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, July 8 2009.
  • “Man who Acted as Pimp for Girlfriend Gets Six Months in Jail, 10 Years’ Probation,” Grand Junction Daily Sentinel, September 1 2009.

Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

State Colorado
Type County
Population 155703
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