Myrtle Beach, SC

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

Myrtle Beach is a coastal city of approximately 30,000 residents, located near Conway in Horry County, South Carolina. It is a major tourist area in the southeast, attracting an estimated 14 million visitors each summer. Prostitution, sex trafficking, and numerous associated crimes have been well documented as substantial problems in the city and surrounding areas, and residents have complained about chronic street prostitution in some city neighborhoods, and in area hotels and motels. For example, according to a federal indictment released in 2021, three men had conspired to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize, and solicit a minor victim in South Carolina to engage in a commercial sex act. One of the defendants was sentenced to five years in federal prison for transferring obscene material – i.e., a video of him having sexual intercourse with a minor. According to court records, one defendant used message boards and social media to make his minor victim available to adult males for sexual encounters in exchange for the men sending visual depictions of the sexual encounters to him. Specifically, he required the adult males to produce a video recording of the often-violent sexual acts with children.

To address consumer-level demand that drives all prostitution and sex trafficking, the Myrtle Beach Police Department has conducted reverse stings since at least 1997. For example, in 2011, the MBPD made 70 prostitution-related arrests, including many men attempting to buy sex, and reported that “prostitution is a growing problem in the city.”  In August 2020, 11 individuals were arrested on prostitution related charges in the area. According to local law enforcement agencies, the indictments were for soliciting or loitering for prostitution. Drug arrests were also made in connection to the operation. As in previous cases, the names and ages of those arrested were released to the public.

Not all sex buyer arrests are the result of proactive sting operations, but instead are the product of investigations about real instances of prostitution and trafficking.  For example, in July, 2021, four people were arrested and charged in Federal court as response to in a child sex trafficking investigation that involved victims in South Carolina. The indictment alleged that, since at least April 2020, two men (one from Myrtle Beach) conspired to recruit, entice, harbor, transport, provide, obtain, maintain, patronize, and solicit a minor victim in South Carolina to engage in a commercial sex act. Two other men who responded to the internet postings offering the child for commercial sexual abuse and the production of child sexual abuse images were arrested and faced numerous charges, including conspiracy to sexually traffic a minor, sexual trafficking of minor, conspiracy to produce child pornography and to coerce and entice a minor, four counts of production of child pornography involving two victims, four counts of coercion and enticement of a minor involving two victims, and possession of child pornography.

Loss of employment is another consequence of arrest for buying sex that has occurred in Myrtle Beach.  For example, in August, 2021, a man who had worked as a diesel mechanic and had been doing so for nine years was arrested during a reverse sting. He was charged with prostitution, first offense, and possession of marijuana. His truck was towed and impounded, and the man was released on bond.  He  was fired from his position as a diesel mechanic. He applied for unemployment but was denied because the state determined he was terminated for cause. The charges against the man were later dismissed. The man hired an attorney and filed a lawsuit claiming that the city and the police officer violated his civil rights and damaged his reputation by arresting him under false charges. His suit claims that the man had stopped at a local gas station to purchase a drink and some scratch-off tickets when he saw a woman waving frantically at him in the parking lot.  He claimed that because it was dark and rainy he could not tell if he knew her or not, and so he pulled over to speak to her, and asked the woman if she needed anything. The woman replied that she needed $20 for oral sex. The man claims he rolled up his window and left, not knowing the woman he had been speaking to was an undercover officer. He was soon pulled over by police and arrested for soliciting prostitution from the decoy officer.  The man’s suit seeks last wages, front pay, future lost wages and benefits, compensatory and consequential damages, and attorney’s fees and costs.

Key Partners

  • Myrtle Beach Police Department
  • Homeland Security Investigations
  • South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division
  • Horry County Sheriff’s Office

Key Sources

Reverse Stings:

Arrest of Sex Buyers, Identity Disclosure:

Loss of Employment:

Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:

Background on Local Sex Trafficking, Prostitution, Related CSAM:

State South Carolina
Type City
Population 29971
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