Putnam County, NY

Tactics Used

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

Putnam County, New York has a population of about 100,000, and its county seat is the city of Carmel.  The county is included in the New York-Newark-Jersey City, NY-NJ-PA Metropolitan Statistical Area, and is located in the lower Hudson River Valley.  Noteworthy cities and towns within the county include Mahopac, Southeast, Cold Spring, and Brewster.  Prostitution and sex trafficking have been widespread, persistent, and well-documented problems throughout the county.  Examples include a 2017 case in which two men pled guilty to charges related to paying for access to sexually abuse a 15-year-old boy from Cold Spring; a 2010 case in Mahopac in which an undercover operation led to the arrest of a massage parlor owner on prostitution charges; and a 2006 case in Southeast in which PCSO deputies raided a massage parlor and confirmed commercial sex was occurring on the premises.

More recently, in January 2021, a man was charged with being a driver for a prostitution ring that served Putnam County, specifically Brewster, that was part of a large international human smuggling and sex trafficking operation. In a complaint unsealed in February, 2021, an FBI agent testified that a suspect arranged appointments by text messages or WhatsApp, and had been driving prostituted women from Queens to Putnam County for the prior seven years and had contact information on his cell phone for 383 alleged sex buyers in the town of Brewster alone (a city of less than 2,500 residents). The investigation found that women from Central America were smuggled into the U.S. and then into the NY/NJ region to serve in prostitution.  The women were driven to various locations, working 12 or more hours a day, servicing 20 to 40 men per shift. The organization charged on average $35 to $40 per 10- to 15-minute sessions, which generated hundreds of thousands of dollars in illicit proceeds each month. This money was allegedly collected by four men and was deposited into bank accounts in an attempt to avoid currency-transaction reporting requirements. The proceeds paid mortgages and other property maintenance expenses on multiple properties owned New Jersey and Florida. The organization kept 50 percent of the daily proceeds. The victims were given the other 50 percent, but their money was often used to satisfy a trafficking debt and/or wired to sex traffickers in the Puebla and Tenancingo regions of Mexico.  The Putnam County driver admitted to FBI agents that he was aware that many of the women he transported were being coerced or forced into prostitution. The FBI said agents observed him drop off and pick up women to Brewster over a three-month period in early 2020, typically to apartments in multifamily houses.

Among the local efforts to address such problems are the use of tactics targeting demand.  For example, in Mahopac police have conducted at least one reverse sting, a “spin-off” from a conventional sting targeting providers of commercial sex. In 2006, the Putnam County Sheriff’s Office arrested two women for charges of prostitution and acquired several cell phones used to arrange illegal commercial sex encounters. The seized phones were used to run a reverse sting which led to the arrest of several sex buyers.   The names and hometowns of all arrest were reported in the local newspaper. In the aforementioned Cold Spring case, the two sex buyers were arrested and had their identities publicized in news outlets.

Key Partners

  • Putnam County Sheriff’s Office
  • Carmel Police Department
  • Cold Spring Police Department

Key Sources

Reverse Sting, Shaming:

Background on Sex Trafficking and Prostitution in the Area:

State New York
Type County
Population 98320
Location
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