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Springfield is a city of approximately 170,000 residents, located near Nixa and Rogersville in southern Missouri, within Greene County. Prostitution activity has been well documented in the city and surrounding areas for decades. In a recent example, a former Springfield teacher pleaded guilty in 2019 to a misdemeanor charge for running a sexually oriented business too close to a local park. The woman and her husband were originally charged in 2012 with promoting prostitution after a sting operation at a massage business they were running out of the Landmark Building in downtown Springfield. After receiving tips in 2010 about possible sexual activity at the business, court documents said Springfield police launched an investigation that culminated with an undercover officer negotiating for a massage and oral sex from a “worker” for $150. When officers raided the business, the worker allegedly told police the defendants arranged her meetings with clients. The teacher pleaded guilty in 2013 to promoting prostitution and was sentenced to probation. As part of the plea deal, she was sentenced to two years of unsupervised probation and ordered to complete 60 hours of community service. A condition of the plea agreement is that she had to resign from Springfield Public Schools. She had been on administrative leave since 2011, on paid leave through Dec. 31, 2012, at which point it became unpaid and permanent. In 2017, a Greene County judge issued a restraining order on six Springfield massage parlors based on allegations that the businesses were keeping Asian women against their will to provide sexual contact under the guise of offering massages, and that the businesses could be related to organized crime. More recently, the FBI, working with its state and local partners for two weeks in August, 2022, identified and located 84 minor victims of child sex trafficking and child sexual exploitation offenses and located 37 actively missing children during a nationwide enforcement campaign, dubbed “Operation Cross Country.” The Springfield Police Department arrested two people in the operation, one booked for promoting prostitution, and one was booked for prostitution.
Among the many documented problems associated with prostitution in the city, in addition to having an elementary shool teacher serving as a pimp near a park, include the robbery, assault and murder of both prostituted women and male sex buyers. Sex trafficking is also well documented locally, sometimes involving child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, often referred to in criminal codes as “child pornography”) and illicit drugs. In September, 2022, two individuals were sentenced in federal court for the sex trafficking of a child. The man was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison without parole, followed by 25 years of supervised release. His female accomplice was sentenced to 20 years in federal prison without parole, followed by 25 years of supervised release. Each had pleaded guilty to one count of sexual exploitation of a minor and one count of sex trafficking a minor. They admitted that they sex-trafficked a 15-year-old female, identified in court documents as “Jane Doe 1.” They also asked the child victim to recruit some of her friends to participate, but her friends refused to be involved. The woman trafficker also took sexually explicit photos of Jane Doe 1 (thus, CSAM), which she sent to her male accomplice. The traffickers also gave ecstasy and marijuana to the child victim prior to her meeting an unidentified man for sex at a local hotel, for which the child victim was paid a portion and the traffickers kept most of the payment.
In an effort to constrain the consumer level demand that is the key driver of all prostitution and sex trafficking, the Springfield Police Department has conducted several street-level reverse stings in recent years, often in response to resident complaints about prostitution occurring in specific areas. Operations typically involve an undercover female police officer, who poses as a prostituting woman. When a sex buyer approaches her and offers money for sex, the officer asks the suspect to meet her at a specific location where he is arrested by a support team. In September 2010, officers collaborated with local residents from the Grant Beach Neighborhood Association to conduct a reverse sting in Grant Beach Park. As a result, nine men were arrested and charged with solicitation. Police conducted similar operations in June 2011 and September 2013, each netting five sex buyers in the park. Patronizing prostitution is usually treated as a municipal offense in Springfield and carries a maximum penalty of $1,000 fine and 30 days in jail.
- “Nine Busted in Prostitution Sting in Springfield, MO”, CBS/KOLR-TV 11, September 3 2010.
- “Charges Pending for Nine Men Busted in Prostitution Sting”, CBS/KOLR-TV 11, September 2010.
- “Prostitution Sting Yields Five Arrests”, Springfield News-Leader, June 24 2011.
- “Prostitution Sting Leads to Arrest of 3 Men in Springfield”, Springfield News-Leader, October 22 2012.
- “Neighbors and Parents Say Police Presence Helped to Stop Prostitution and Other Activity in Park”, ABC/KSPR-TV 33, September 20 2013.
- “Police: Five Men Tried to Solicit Undercover Cops for Sex”, NBC/KYTV-TV 3, September 20 2013.
- “Police in Springfield Take 5 in Custody into Custody in Prostitution Sting”, ABC/KSPR-TV 33, September 20 2013.
- “Prostitution Sting Came on Troubled Corner”, Springfield News-Leader, September 20 2013.
- “Prostitution Stings on the Rise in the Ozarks”, Ozarks First, September 20 2013.
Local Sex Trafficking, Child Sexual Exploitation, Related CSAM, Other Offenses:
- “St. Louis Man Accused of Promoting Springfield Teen’s Prostitution”, CBS/KOLR-TV 11, May 10 2013.
- “Police Warn Prostitutes Can Secretly Sell Sex in Ozarks Neighborhoods”, ABC/KSPR-TV 33, August 28 2013.
- https://bearworks.missouristate.edu/theses/1186/ (2013)
- https://www.kfvs12.com/missouri-businesses-closed-for-alleged-human-trafficking/ (2017)
- https://www.cbsnews.com/judge-tells-massage-parlors-to-stop-prostitution-related-activities-for-10-days/ (2017)
- https://apnews.com/Springfield massage business restraining order (2017)
- https://www.news-leader.com/springfield-prostitution-case-school-teacher-laura-fielder (2019)
- https://ago.mo.gov/docs/default-source/human-trafficking-resources/2020-httf-annual-report.pdf (2020)
- https://www.justice.gov/springfield-woman-pleads-guilty-sex-trafficking-child (2021)
- https://www.kansascity.com/Missouri.sex trafficking alleged boarding school student (2022)
- https://www.ky3.com/fbi-announces-locates-sex-trafficking-victims-across-midwest/ (2022)
- https://www.kttn.com/missouri-man-and-woman-sentenced-to-a-total-of-50-years-in-prison-for-sex-trafficking-a-child/ (2022)
- https://www.justice.gov/springfield-man-woman-sentenced-sex-trafficking-child (2022)
- https://www.ozarksfirst.com/greene-co-sex-offender-rate-ranks-high-compared-to-most-populated-mo-counties/ (2022)
- https://www.ozarksfirst.com/advocate-against-human-trafficking-says-predators-target-children-online/ (2023)
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Teacher Arrested in Landmark Prostitution Case”, Springfield News-Leader, March 2 2011.
- “Teacher, Husband Are Accused of Operating Prostitution Business in Downtown Springfield”, NBC/KYTV-TV 3, February 7 2012.
- “Husband of Former Springfield Teacher Pleads Guilty to Promoting Prostitution”, NBC/KYTV-TV 3, September 15 2013.
- “Man from Springfield Gets Probation for Promoting Prostitution”, NBC/KYTV-TV 3, November 14 2013.
Documented Violence Against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area:
- “Teenager from Springfield Is Charged with Murder for Shooting on East Grand Street; The 18-Year-Old Suspect Told Police She Was on a Date with the 42-Year-Old Victim”, NBC/KYTV-TV 3, November 7 2012.
- “Two Charged in Alleged Prostitution Scam, Robbery”, Springfield News-Leader, June 25 2014.
- “Springfield Man Convicted of Attempted Rape,” Springfield News-Leader, February 25 2015.
- “Springfield Man Gets 22 Years for Trying to Rape Prostitute,” Springfield News-Leader, June 30 2015.