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Payette is a city of roughly 8,400 residents in southwestern Idaho and is the county seat of Payette County. Payette County lies along U.S. Route 95 in the Treasure Valley of southwest Idaho, about 50 miles west of Boise, and borders the state of Oregon. It is part of the Ontario, OR Micropolitan Statistical Area. Prostitution has been documented in the county dating back to the early 1900s. In 1908, Payette County (then in Canyon County; Payette County was formed in 1917), attempted to prohibit prostitution and liquor traffic in conjunction with similar efforts that were occurring across the state at the time. The City of Payette was too small to have a red light district, but it had a brothel at the edge of town, and in 1908 the Payette Independent reported that two sheepherders had been severely beaten and robbed as they left the brothel. Among the more serious crimes associated with the local commercial sex market are child sex trafficking and targeted violence against sex buyers, prostituted persons, and victims of sex trafficking. For example, in March 2012, an Idaho State Police trooper stopped a man from Washington state at a rest stop in Payette County and arrested him for driving without privileges. At the Payette County Jail, his passenger, a 15-year-old girl, was found to be a ward of the state of Washington and a runaway who was being trafficked for sexual exploitation. The man was prosecuted and sentenced to 57 months in federal prison for his role in sex trafficking.
In committee hearings for a human trafficking bill in 2018, a state representative brought a number of child sex trafficking survivors to testify. They testified that sex buyers were just as dangerous as sex traffickers and frequently abused and raped their victims. One survivor testified that while she was being trafficked as a child, she was choked, tied up, cut with knives, and then penetrated with sharp objects by an abusive male sex buyer. A 15-year-old Payette girl told the committee she had been sex trafficked at the age of 13 by her mother’s sex trafficker/pimp and emphasized that she had been sex trafficked because there was an increase in demand for commercial sex in the area.
Consumer-level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies in their strategy for prevention and response. The Payette Police Department is known to have participated in at least one web-based reverse sting operation in the region. For example, in 2016, the Payette Police Department participated in an undercover anti-sex trafficking operation in Malheur County, OR that led to the arrest of 11 male sex buyers. The operation was led by the High Desert Drug Taskforce, and also included the Malheur County Sheriff’s Office and police departments in Ontario, OR and Nyssa, ID. During the investigation, undercover officers posted decoy ads on websites known for prostitution and sex-trafficking. Sex buyers who had responded to the decoy ads and arranged prices and times to meet for commercial sex with undercover officers were arrested upon their arrival to a hotel in the Ontario area, and booked into the Malheur County Jail.
The Payette County Sheriff’s Office, in coordination with additional local and state law enforcement agencies have been known to investigate and arrest suspected sex buyers as the result of tips from community members to local law enforcement. For example, in 2000, a Payette man was arrested for allegedly soliciting a woman and two minors for commercial sex purposes. His arrest came after a tip from a 34-year-old Payette woman, who told police she was allegedly approached by the sex buyer and asked if she, her 13-year-old daughter, and a 16-year-old female relative would engage in commercial sex acts for him. The investigation continued and police tried to identify other possible sex buyers involved and determine the extent of the man’s alleged business. The man had been an interpreter for the Payette County Court system, was arraigned on two counts of felony attempting to induce persons under 18 into prostitution and one count of felony attempting to induce an adult into prostitution. The case went to a grand jury.
Loss of employment is also a consequence of buying sex in the city. For example, in 2019, the Washington County Sheriff’s Office received a tip from a Payette County law enforcement agency that alleged a former Fruitland police officer had solicited underage boys for sex acts on social media. According to reports, the WCSO stated that the cases went back as far as 2017 and took place in Fruitland and in Payette. The case was passed to the WCSO to avoid conflict of interest. According to the criminal complaint, the former officer was soliciting up to four different minors in Payette County. The offender allegedly used multiple social media accounts to contact the youths, including Instagram and Snapchat. The former officer was employed as a Fruitland Police Officer in both a reserve and a full-time capacity between April 2015 and June 2019 and resigned from the Fruitland Police Department in June 2019 while he was a reserve officer. All of the offenses were believed to have occurred while the former officer was off duty. In addition, the offender was involved with numerous youth-based organizations, including the Boys & Girls Club in Payette and Ontario School District, where he was terminated in June after working for a few months. As a result of the investigation, the offender resigned from the Fruitland Police Department – at that time he was a reserve officer. In May 2020, the offender was sentenced to 10 years in prison, but could potentially be granted released after one year, and would complete the remainder of his sentence on probation. He was also required to register as a sex offender upon his release. The offender’s identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.ktvb.com/15-arrested-in-ontario-area-sex-trafficking-investigation (2016)
- https://www.koin.com/sex-trafficking-sting-in-se-oregon-nets-15-arrests (2016)
- Sex-trafficking operation nets 15 people in 1 week (2016)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.argusobserver.com/police-arrest-payette-man-on-charges-of-soliciting-prostitution (2000)
Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:
- Ex-Fruitland officer accuses of child sexual abuse remains in jail (2019)
- https://www.eastidahonews.com/ex-fruitland-police-officer-accused-of-8-sex-crimes-involving-children-remains-in-jail (2019)
- https://www.ktvb.com/article/news/crime (2019)
- https://www.ctpost.com/Boys-Girls-Clubs-and-Sexual-Abuse-Alexander (2019)
- https://www.parentsformeganslaw.org/ex-fruitland-police-officer-pleads-guilty-to-4-felony-sex-crimes-involving-children (2020)
- Ex-Fruitland police officer pleads guilty in child sex abuse case (2020)
- Former Idaho police officer sentenced for 4 sex charges (2020)
- https://www.idahopress.com/former-fruitland-police-officer-gets-up-to-10-years-in-prison-for-sex-crimes-against (2020)
- https://m.argusobserver.com/former-cop-takes-plea-deal-alexander-plaza-faces-100-years-in-prison-for-multiple-sex (2020)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- https://www.boiseweekly.com/human-trafficking-absence-of-choice (2014)
- https://www.eastidahonews.com/payette-mom-gets-rider-sex-14-year-old (2016)
- https://www.youtube.com/watch (2018)
- https://www.idahopress.com/former-fruitland-assistant-track-coach-arrested-on-suspicion-of-rape (2019)
- https://www.idahopress.com/charges-dismissed-against-former-fruitland-assistant-track-coach-accused-of-rape-other-crimes (2019)
- https://www.idahopress.com/former-fruitland-principal-testifies-in-trial-denies-crimes (2019)
- https://www.ktvb.com/fruitland-high-principal-accused-of-groping-sexually-propositioning-school-employee (2019)
- https://www.argusobserver.com/court-pushes-out-trial-for-former-high-school-principal (2019)
- https://www.idahoednews.org/news/fruitland-principal-charged-with-sexual-battery-patronizing-a-prostitute (2019)
- https://www.ktvb.com/not-guilty-former-fruitland-principal-sexual-battery-charges (2019)
- https://www.idahoednews.org/fruitland-principal-charged-with-sexual-battery-patronizing-a-prostitute (2019)
- https://www.idahostatesman.com/news/local/education (2019)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
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