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Riley County is a county located in the U.S. state of Kansas and has a population of approximately 75,000 residents. Its largest city and county seat is Manhattan, KS. Riley County is home to two of Kansas’s largest employers: Fort Riley and Kansas State University. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been reported in the community for at least ten years. This activity and its ancillary crimes has resulted in complaints to local law enforcement from residents and businesses. Due to the presence of the military base, Fort Riley, Riley County and its surrounding areas have been known to have significant issues with prostitution and sex trafficking. In 1986, a large-scale, international sex trafficking operation was discovered in the area in which women were being transported from Korea to Junction City and Fort Riley, where they were then trafficked to other U.S. states such as Hawaii, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Wyoming. Reports of targeted violence and homicide against prostituted women has also been documented in the county. For example, in 2014, a man and a woman living at Fort Riley were arrested for the murder of a Junction City missing woman after her body was found in a rural area of the county. According to reports, the victim was a known prostituted woman and the couple was found to have been in contact with her prior to her disappearance. In 2017, the couple and two others were found guilty of assaulting, robbing, raping, and murdering the woman.
Among their efforts to curtail commercial sex activity, the Riley County Police Department has conducted at least two reverse stings targeting male sex buyers. For example, in 2011, a three-day online operation using Backpage.com resulted in the arrests of two people for prostitution, two for promoting prostitution, and five male sex buyers. Additionally, one of the five male sex buyers arrested was an R.A. at Kansas State University. As a result of his arrest, the University removed him from his position and opened an investigation into the former student employee. Upon further investigation, K-State University Police discovered that numerous reports about the former R.A. had been made by female students staying in his assigned dorm. The students alleged that the offender had made inappropriate comments and actions towards them during their time living at the dorm however, the sex buyer was not removed from his position until the University was notified of his arrest.
A similar two-day sting conducted in April 2012, resulted in the arrest of 11 individuals on prostitution-related charges–four of whom were charged with patronizing prostitution. The operation was conducted online and undercover officers met with suspected sex buyers at two local hotels. Following both operations, the identities, ages, and hometowns of the arrested offenders were included in reports by local media outlets.
In July 2018, the Kansas Attorney General announced a new awareness campaign in Kansas is aimed at cutting the demand for prostitution as a way to fight human trafficking. The campaign involves state agencies and local advocacy groups teaming up to push the “Demand an End” initiative, which features education and announcements warning people that buyers of sex face charges. The campaign was initiated by the non-profit organization, Street Grace and has been adopted in over 10 states. The campaign intends to promote a culture where purchasing sex is unacceptable.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “Prostitution Probe Results in Nine Arrests,” Topeka Capital-Journal, February 22 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Nets Nine Arrests,” CBS/WIBW-TV 13, February 22 2011.
- “Prostitution Surprises Police,” Manhattan Mercury, February 22 2011.
- https://www.kstatecollegian.com/2011/02/28/rcpd-arrests-9-on-prostitutionrelated-charges/ (2011)
- “Prostitution Sting Nets 11 Arrests, Undercover Operation Targeted Activity at Two Area Hotels,” Manhattan Mercury, April 27 2012.
- “Undercover Probe Nets Prostitution Arrests,” Topeka Capital-Journal, April 27 2012.
- “Kansas Today; Manhattan; Prostitution Charges Given,” Leavenworth Times, April 28 2012.
- https://www.cjonline.com/story/news/local/2012/04/27/undercover-probe-nets-prostitution-arrests (2012)
- https://www.kcur.org/post/new-campaign-aims-fight-human-trafficking-cutting-demand-prostitution (2018)
- MHK to host conference on trafficking (2018)
- AG Derek Schmidt and partners to announce new public awareness campaign targeting buyers of sex in Kansas (2018)
- AG Derek Schmidt, statewide partners announce new public awareness effort targeting buyers of sex (2018)
- AG Derek Schmidt: More than 3,500 Kansans demand an end to the sexual exploitation of human beings (2019)
- AGO – Demand an End Campaign
- Sex Buyers Beware Posters
Loss of Employment, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.kstatecollegian.com/2011/03/09/prostitution-sting-leads-to-ra-arrest/ (2011)
- https://www.kstatecollegian.com/2011/03/31/murky-details-emerge-surrounding-prostitution-arrest/ (2011)
Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:
- Utermoehlen pleads guilty to promoting prostitution (2006)
- https://1350kman.com/2015/08/pedophile-sentenced-in-riley-county-district-court/ (2015)
- https://themercury.com/news/crime/rcpd-arrests-man-on-child-porn-solicitation-charges/article (2019)
- https://www.ksnt.com/news/local-news/manhattan-mother-says-she-was-contacted-by-educator-arrested-on-child-porn-charges/ (2021)
- https://news.yahoo.com/k-state-plumber-arrested-child-170300712.html (2021)
- https://1350kman.com/2021/08/k-state-staffer-arrested-for-possessing-trading-child-pornography/ (2021)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Police Detain Three in Prostitution Investigation,” Manhattan Mercury, April 6 2012.
- “RCPD: Teen Brought to Manhattan for Prostitution,” CBS/WIBW-TV 13, April 6 2012.
- “Runaway Girl, 2 Others Held in Prostitution,” Topeka Capital-Journal, April 6 2012.
- “Story of Woman’s Rape Illustrates Prevalence of Sex Trafficking,” Manhattan Mercury, April 28 2013.
- “Missing Girl Found in Trafficking Case,” Manhattan Mercury, November 7 2013.
- “FBI Finds 2 Teens, Arrests 7 Pimps Involved in Prostitution,” Topeka Capital-Journal, June 23 2014.
- “Manhattan Part of National Child Sex Trafficking Sting,” Manhattan Mercury, June 24 2014.
- “Federal Indictment: Topeka Couple Forced Teenage Girl into Prostitution,” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas, May 6 2015.
- “Couple Charged with Forcing Teen into Prostitution to Be Tried Starting July 7,” Topeka Capital-Journal, June 8 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Two Arrested in Manhattan Prostitution Sting,” CBS/WIBW-TV 13, July 5 2012.
- “Three Arrested in Manhattan Prostitution Bust,” CBS/WIBW-TV 13, October 4 2012.
- “Manhattan Man Who Hired Prostitute Ends up Calling Police,” ABC/KAKE-TV 10, April 24 2013.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaging in Commercial Sex:
- Body found might be Junction City woman (2014)
- Man pleads guilty in woman’s death (2016)
- https://www.justice.gov/usao-ks/pr/junction-city-man-sentenced-kidnapping-woman-who-was-killed (2017)
- Man gets 16-year term in kidnapping, death (2017)
- https://themercury.com/news/courts/escort-says-she-didn-t-plan-to-have-sex-with-defendant/article (2019)
- https://themercury.com/news/courts/jury-finds-manhattan-man-guilty-of-attempted-rape/article (2019)