Pocola is a town of less than 5,000 residents, located just south of the Fort Smith, Arkansas in Le Flore County, Oklahoma. Although incidents of prostitution in the community remain limited, law enforcement have in recent years reported an increase in commercial sex activity in and around the Choctaw Casino Pocola, a major tourist destination located within the town.
To address the issue, a coordinated effort was undertaken by the Choctaw Nation Tribal Police, Bureau of Indian Affairs, Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs, Department of Homeland Security, Le Flore County Sheriff’s Office, Le Flore County District Attorney’s Investigators, and Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office in September 2014. During the operation, law enforcement agents placed and responded to online listings offering prostitution at the casino’s hotel. Officers also arrested several prostituted women for soliciting on the casino floor. Four johns and six prostituted women were arrested as a result. Their names were publicized by some media outlets; one displayed the mugshots of the arrestees (without their names) during an evening broadcast, and others listed only the names and ages without photos.
Oklahoma law prohibits people from engaging in prostitution under 21 O.S. 1029, which addresses both prostitution and solicitation of prostitution in the same manner under the same statute. Both prostitution and solicitation are misdemeanors. The penalties for prostitution and solicitation include a jail term of 30 days to one year and a fine of up to $2,500 on the first offense. The fines increase with subsequent convictions, and the court may also mandate 40 to 80 hours of community service.
- Choctaw Nation Tribal Police
- Bureau of Indian Affairs
- Oklahoma Bureau of Narcotics and Dangerous Drugs
- Department of Homeland Security
- Le Flore County Sheriff’s Office
- Le Flore County District Attorney’s Investigators
- Sebastian County Sheriff’s Office
Web-Based Reverse Stings:
- “10 Arrested in Prostitution Ring Bust at Choctaw Casino,” ABC/KNWA-TV 50, September 25 2014.
- “10 Arrested in Prostitution Sting at Pocola Casino,” CBS/KFSM-TV 5, September 25 2014.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 10 Arrests at Choctaw Casino in Pocola,” Fort Smith Southwest Times Record, September 25 2014.
- “Ten Arrested in Prostitution Sting at Choctaw Nation Casino in Le Flore County,” CBS/KOTV-DT 6, September 25 2014.