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St. Clair County, Illinois abuts the Mississippi River, and is on the state’s border with Missouri. It has a population of roughly 261,000, and its county seat is the city of Belleville. Other noteworthy communities within the county include East St. Louis, Caseyville, Centreville (which was a city in St. Clair County until May, 2021, when it was dissolved and was incorporated into the new city of Cahokia Heights), and the village of Brooklyn. Prostitution and sex trafficking have a long history in the economically distressed area, at least since the 1930s in areas near the river and an area called The Valley where the area had a reputation for gangsters, “prostitutes.” and ex-bootleggers. Street prostitution continues to be a persistent and visible problem in certain areas of the communities with the county, and has been linked to cases of sex trafficking and a wide range of associated crimes. For example, in 2016 a resident of East St. Louis was sentenced to 30 years in federal prison for one count of conspiracy to commit sex trafficking of children by force, fraud, and coercion and three counts of child sex trafficking by force, fraud, and coercion all to run concurrently with each other and with another federal sentence the man was already serving. Facts revealed in open court at the sentencing and plea hearings established that from about late 2009 or early 2010, the offender and another recruited four girls under the age of 18 on chat lines, online, or simply walking down the street. Using actual physical violence or fear of violence, lies, and mental manipulation, he coerced the girls to be sexually abused with men for money, which he kept. The offender knew or recklessly disregarded the fact that the girls were under the age of 18 at the time. In June, 2017, police were investigating whether a sex trafficking suspect facing charges in Las Vegas was responsible for the death of 6-year-old child found in Belleville. The man faced sex trafficking charges after his wife reported he abused her for years and forced her into prostitution. Centreville police turned the case over to Belleville police because investigators say it’s believed the child was killed in Belleville before her body was left in Centreville. The man eventually admitted killing his daughter, and was also charged with child abuse and possession of “child pornography.” In 2020 it was reported that a prostituted woman from Belleville, who was often exploited in East St. Louis, reported missing in 2007 had still not been found. She was last seen in East St. Louis getting into a car with a man in the area of Ninth Street and Exchange Avenue, and has never been seen or heard from since. The missing woman’s family reportedly shared that the woman had spent most of her life “working as a prostitute” and records indicate that she had prior offenses for solicitation.
There have also been at least two – and possibly three – serial killers that targeted prostituted women in the county. The Murder Accountability Project determined that there may be a serial killer at work in East St. Louis, based on an algorithm that organizes homicide reports into groups based on the victims’ gender, geographic location, and method of killing. The Murder Accountability Project is a nonprofit organization that studies homicides, especially unsolved killings and serial murders in the United States. In 2003-2006, the bodies of six women were found in East St. Louis, with most having criminal histories consistent with prostitution and drug abuse. The homicides remained unsolved into 2019. At least two additional serial killer of prostituted women operated in the county. The arrest of a man in January 2002 cleared the murders of three women that occurred in late 1999 to 2000, and another who confessed to killing 17 women and having disposed of at least four women in East St. Louis. Both of those men were unable to commit these later six murders in 2003-2006, since one was dead and the other was in county jail when the first occurred in 2003.
Consumer level demand provides the revenue stream for all prostitution and sex trafficking, and has therefore been targeted by local law enforcement agencies as a strategy for prevention and response. To address the wide range of crimes associated with the county’s commercial sex trade, local police departments have partnered with county and state law enforcement to conduct reverse stings. There have been regional stings that county agencies have participated in, plus local demand efforts within specific cities, assisted by county sheriff’s deputies and prosecutors. Sex buyers have also been arrested during investigations of crimes agains real victims. For example, in December, 2013, the St. Clair County State’s Attorney’s Office declared a building within Brooklyn city limits to be a public nuisance after an undercover sting at a massage parlor revealed the business was also operating as a brothel. According to court documents, members of the Metropolitan Enforcement Group of Southwestern Illinois went to the a massage parlor on S. 3rd Street posing as a group of intoxicated men “celebrating a divorce.” After making contact with a woman in the lobby of the business, the agents were told to pick out a woman who would administer the massage and that they could discuss “tips” in private. Two agents went into private rooms with women, and the women discussed prices of different sexual acts that they would perform on the agents. After the agents and women agreed to prices for a specific act, other special agents entered the building and made arrests. The women in question were each issued a citation for prostitution. The owner of the business was also cited. The state’s attorney’s office charged the sheriff’s department to shut the business down and remove any property used in conducting or aiding and abetting the alleged crime.
The East St. Louis Police Department has partnered with the Illinois State Police to conduct periodic street-level reverse stings. Female state troopers have been used as undercover decoys to stroll areas of the cities known for commercial sex and trafficking. While arrested sex buyers do not typically have their identities released to the public, they may have their vehicles seized and impounded, depending upon the circumstances of the arrest.
In June, 2021, St. Clair County Sheriffs Office participated in web-based reverse sting across the region that resulted in the arrest of six men from Missouri and Illinois who faced federal charges. Several were charged with attempted enticement of a minor and traveling across state lines with the intent to engage in illicit sexual conduct. Some of the defendants allegedly traveled across state lines and/or offered to pay for sex, leading to additional charges. Several of the suspects allegedly had alcohol, sex toys, condoms, and candy with them when they were arrested. The cases were the result of an FBI-led operation involving multiple federal and state law enforcement agencies. The crimes allegedly occurred in the Southern District of Illinois. All six defendants are accused of using the internet to entice someone under 17 years old to engage in unlawful sexual activity and traveling to a specific location to engage in sexual acts with a minor. The investigation was led by FBI-Springfield, with assistance from the St. Clair County Sheriff’s Office, FBI-St. Louis, U.S. Air Force Office of Special Investigations, Collinsville Police Department, Edwardsville Police Department, Illinois State Police, Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville Police Department, Madison County States Attorney’s Office, Alton Police Department, Monroe County Sheriff’s Office, Macoupin County Sheriff’s Office, Marion County Sheriff’s Office, and the Carlyle Police Department.
- St. Claire County Sheriff’s Office
- Belleville Police Department
- Caseyville Police Department
- East St. Louis Police Department
- Illinois State Police
- “EAST ST. LOUIS: Four Accused of Soliciting for Sex”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 13 1991.
- “E. St. Louis Takes Aim at Prostitution”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, September 16 1991.
- “BRIEFS”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, June 10 1995.
- “Teacher Arrested in Prostitution Case Keeping Job”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, August 29 1996.
- “Jury Convicts Belleville Coach of Prostitution Misdemeanor”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, July 24 1997.
- “East St. Louis Police Promise to Keep Fighting Prostitution”, St. Louis Post-Dispatch, October 14 2003.
Web-Based Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
Reverse Sting, Identity Disclosure:
- https://fox2now.com/news/caseyville-hotel-owner-faces-charges-related-to-prostitution (2016)
- https://www.kmov.com/news/caseyville-motel-owner-accused-of-sex-crimes (2016)
- https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article.html (2016)
- https://www.stltoday.com/caseyville-hotel-owner-charged-with-promoting-prostitution (2016)
- https://www.vandaliaradio.com/motel-owner-snared-in-prostitution-sting (2016)
- “ESL Police Nab At Least 16 in 2-Day Prostitution Sting, Teacher, Firefighter Among Those Arrested”, Belleville News-Democrat, October 12 2003.
Background on Local Prostitution, Sex Trafficking, Related Violence, CSAM:
- https://www.latimes.com/1986-10-06-me-4540-story (1986)
- https://law.justia.com/cases/federal/district-courts/FSupp2/money laundering prostitution Brooklyn IL (1999)
- https://www.stltoday.com/suburban-journals/caseyville-woman-arrested-for-prostitution (2008)
- https://www.officer.com/illinois-police-shut-down-motel-thats-revolving-door-of-crime (2011)
- https://www.ksdk.com/police-prostitute-murdered-in-east-st-louis (2013)
- https://www.ksdk.com/undercover-sting-at-massage-parlor-brothel-in-brooklyn-ill (2013)
- https://www.justice.gov/east-st-louis-man-sentenced-30-years-sex-trafficking-children-force-fraud-coercion (2016)
- https://lasvegassun.com/man-linked-to-illinois-case-child-sex/ (2017)
- https://www.wqad.com/childs-body-found-in-western-illinois-linked-sex-trafficking-suspect (2017)
- https://www.stltoday.com/couple-belleville-charged-concealing-6-year-old-daughters-homicidal-death/ (2017)
- https://apnews.com/article/ (2017)
- https://lasvegassun.com/police-report-jason-quate-admitted-killing-daughter (2017)
- https://www.bnd.com/news/local/article (2018)
- https://www2.illinois.gov/2018_Illinois_Human_Trafficking_Task_Force_Report.pdf (2018)
- https://www.reviewjournal.com/crime/homicides/las-vegas-man-charged-with-killing-child-found-in-illinois-garage/ (2018)
- https://www.kbia.org/post/was-serial-killer-responsible-murder-six-women-east-st-louis-2002-2006 (2019)
- https://fox2now.com/florida-man-sentenced-for-traveling-to-southern-illinois-to-have-sex-with-underage-girl/ (2019)
- https://www.bnd.com/news/local/crime/article (2019)
- https://www.bnd.com/news/local/crime/article (2019)
- https://www.bnd.com/local/crime/article (2019)
- https://www.kbia.org//was-serial-killer-responsible-murder-six-women-east-st-louis-2002-2006 (2019)
- https://ourblackgirls.com/sex-worker-from-illinois-has-been-missing-since-2007/ (2020)
- https://madisonrecord.com/cahokia-heights-strip-clubs-challenge-ordinance-if-prostitution-discovered (2022)