Santa Fe, NM

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

Santa Fe is a city of approximately 88,000 residents, located in Santa Fe County, in Northern New Mexico. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been documented in the city and surrounding communities. However, according to police, the commercial sex market has shifted from occurring on the streets to primarily occurring online. The online commercial sex market in area is reportedly facilitated by access to websites and social media applications, according to local law enforcement. This activity and its ancillary crimes have resulted in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Police have also reported that drugs are commonly used as an exchange for sex acts or present during commercial sex transactions. Among the more serious problems is child sex trafficking. For example, in a 2019 investigative piece by the Santa Fe Reporter, interviews with law enforcement agency personnel, victim advocates, survivors, and reviews of sex trafficking cases, found sex trafficking to be “rampant across New Mexico,”  with individuals being sex trafficked online, in motel rooms, massage parlors, casinos, truck stops, and at camps set up to house oil and gas workers.

Santa Fe police have also arrested individuals for online sexual exploitation of minors and possessing, creating and/or distributing child sex abuse material (CSAM). For example, in 2016, two Santa Fe County men were arrested as part of a two-month nationwide investigation face multiple charges of sexual exploitation of children and child sexual abuse material, called Operation Broken Heart III. Additionally in 2016, a 24-year-old Santa Fe man was arrested and charged with two counts of possession of visual medium of sexual exploitation of children 13 to 18 years-old and four counts of manufacturing visual medium of sexual exploitation of children. Court records show he’s also charged with possession of marijuana and drug paraphernalia, reckless driving and resisting or evading an officer. According to reports, the man had taken sexually explicit photos of underage girls and uploaded them online at two local Walgreens stores. The man had emailed one of the Walgreens stores nine sexually explicit photos, with the intention of picking up the prints later. He also uploaded sexually explicit photos online at the second Walgreens location. Police used this evidence and surveillance videos from both locations, to execute arrest and search warrants at the suspect’s residence. In addition to making the arrest, officers additionally seized 161 photos, “electronic devices,” a camera, and a marijuana, all of which were found in the home. He was arrested on

To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted individuals seeking to purchase commercial sex, and more recently law enforcement has focused on individuals seeking to sexually exploit children in exchange for money. For example, in February 2012, Santa Fe police arrested a man at a local apartment to sexually exploit a 15-year-old girl in exchange for money. The suspect was a state worker and married father of five, who had been chatting with a girl who he thought was 15, but was actually an undercover decoy with Santa Fe Police Department’s Crimes Against Children Unit. The man was charged with two counts of child solicitation by electronic device, one count of aggravated battery on a police officer and five counts of aggravated assault on a police officer. That same month, at least four other men were arrested on charges of soliciting a minor during the department’s month-long sting operation, and a total of 10 arrest warrants were issued for men suspected of soliciting sex from minors.

In October 2021, five people were arrested during an underage sex trafficking sting conducted by the Bernalillo County Sheriff’s Office and Homeland Security Investigations. It involved posting a decoy profile for a 15-year-old girl on the escort website. BCSO said five men showed up as arranged at a local hotel, cash in hand, to find the supposed teen was actually an undercover detective. One of the men worked for the New Mexico Department of Health as a manager for a program serving people with developmental disabilities. The department said the sex buyer had been placed on leave and locked out of his email, as the department conducts its own investigation.

Employment loss is also a consequence of buying sex that has occurred in the city. For example, in 2017, a 60-year-old-man was arrested and charged one count of sexual exploitation of children by prostitution for offering $20 in exchange for oral sex with a 13-year-old girl. The man worked as an assistant bus driver for Santa Fe Public Schools. The 13-year-old girl reported that the man had propositioned her and asked her if she had any friends about 12 years of age with whom he could perform oral sex in exchange for $20, according to a police report. As a result of his arrest, the man resigned from his position.

On June 15, 2018, a then-patrol officer with the New Mexico State Police, conducted a traffic stop in Farmington, during which he came into contact with a 16-year old passenger. The ex-officer requested her phone number, email address, and date of birth. The officer in question then gave her a business card with his personal cell phone number and began texting her shortly after. According to the victim, the officer attempted to solicit her for sex in exchange for drugs. The 16-year-old girl reported the incident to her father who then reported it to police. In response, law enforcement also developed a confidential source (CS) who had prior dealings with the officer in question and she agreed to cooperate. As part of the CS’s cooperation, she allowed law enforcement to use her phone to pretend to be the CS when communicating with the offending officer. In those messages, he devised a plan in which the CS would tell him when she was driving with someone who had methamphetamine. The officer told the CS that he would conduct a traffic stop of the friend’s vehicle, locate the methamphetamine, and provide a portion of the methamphetamine to the CS in exchange for sex. Capehart was unaware that he was communicating this plan to law enforcement and that the CS’s friend would be an undercover agent. In accordance to the plan, the offending officer arrested the undercover agent and located the methamphetamine in their pocket. After booking the undercover agent in jail, in the early morning hours of June 29, 2018, he drove to a park located by the CS’s home in Bloomfield, NM. The offending officer then delivered more than five grams of methamphetamine by bathrooms in the park, which was also located within 1,000 feet of Central Primary Elementary School. Deputies from the SJCSO arrested the officer later that same day. He was initially placed on administrative leave after he was arrested at the Farmington state police office, then resigned about a month later on Aug. 3, 2018. His identity and image were included in reports by local media outlets.

Key Partners

Key Sources

Web-Based Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:

Employment Loss, Sex Buyer Arrest, Identity Disclosure:

Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking:

State New Mexico
Type City
Population 88193
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