Spartanburg County, SC

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

Spartanburg County is a county of approximately 314,000 residents, located in northwest South Carolina. Spartanburg is the county’s seat and largest city. In recent years, local residents and law enforcement officials have noted an increase in commercial sex within the county, specifically in the area’s massage parlors. Reports of the forced prostitution of minors have also been documented, and the activity of the sex trade has brought with it a wide range of associated crimes, such as kidnapping, rape, child endangerment, and illicit drug trafficking. For example, in August, 2019, Spartanburg County and Homeland Security agents arrested 21 people linked to a human trafficking ring. During a two-day sting, investigators seized drugs, weapons and stolen credit cards. Detectives identified 13 people suspected of being involved in human trafficking and nine potential victims. The first phase of the sting operation was to contact the victims and help them out of human trafficking. They had undercover agents arrange to meet with women and pretend to pay them for sex. All the victims had drug addictions, which was believed to provide pimps and traffickers with a form of control over the victims.  Investigators arrested the people who drove the victims to the meetings, including a mother detectives say brought her 10-month-old baby in the car with her to “turn a trick.”

To address the issue, the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Office has conducted reverse stings.  Between 2007 and 2010, at least operations were conducted. In two such operations, officers first arrested the prostituted women employed by the business and then replaced them with undercover female officers. As men arrived for massage appointments and attempted to solicit sexual acts from the decoys, they were apprehended by police. Arrestee names and other identifying information were released to the local media. A web based reverse sting was the second phase of the 2019 operation mentioned above. Agents posted ads on different websites and arrested six men accused of Solicitation of Prostitution. About the operation the local Sheriff said,

“I think it’s really important that we continue having these stings for buyers because the reality is this is a supply-and-demand industry. If people aren’t buying these services we wouldn’t see this increase in human trafficking.”

Some local arrests of sex buyers have resulted from investigations of offenses against real victims, rather than by using police decoys. For example, in October, 2020, a Spartanburg County man was arrested after he was accused of buying a 19-year-old woman as a “sex slave” then clamping a metal collar around her neck and threatening to brand her, according to the South Carolina U.S Attorney’s Office. He was arrested in his Roebuck home and made his initial appearance in court in Greenville, and was charged with conspiracy to commit sex trafficking. The offender had contacted the victim via a dating app in 2019, and then they met in person inside a Dallas motel room, where the buyer pistol-whipped the victim, bruising her hand and jaw. He later gave her a “slave name” and threatened to kill her and her family if she did not consent to being sold for sex, and pointed an unloaded gun at her head and pulled the trigger. After repeatedly selling the victim for commercial sex, the offender advertised her as a “slave” on a fetishism website, where he offered to sell her to the highest bidder. A man using the screen name “The Darkest Lord” offered $5,000. In text messages with the buyer, the trafficker referred to the victim as “the property” and bragged that she “submitted fully” after he “pistol whip[ped]” her. The buyer responded “SWEET. I will take the slave.”  The men met at a gas station in Dallas, where the buyer put the victim in his car to drive her to his home in South Carolina, where he clamped a metal collar around her neck, threatened to brand her, and required the victim to remove her clothes and “be naked all the time.” The victim persuaded the man to let her call her parents, and the man eventually agreed to release her for $5,000 and sent the victim’s father a “contract” as proof of the “sale.”

State South Carolina
Type County
Population 313791
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