Sweetwater County is located in southwestern Wyoming, abutting the northern borders of Colorado and Utah. Its population is roughly 44,000, and its county seat is the city of Green River. By area, it is the largest county in Wyoming. Prostitution and sex trafficking are well-documented in the city of Rock Springs, Green River, and other areas of the county, generating complaints to police and in some instances, involving child sex trafficking and the murder of women engaged in prostitution. For example, in 2016 a man stabbed two women, one fatally, at a Rock Springs hotel where he was there seeking to buy sexual services, according to charging documents. The man was arrested and charged with first-degree felony murder for the slaying of one woman, as well as first-degree attempted murder for stabbing the second woman.
Among the law enforcement responses to prostitution locally have been those proactively seeking to find and arrest sex buyers. In November, 2015, the Rock Springs Police Department Street Crimes Unit received a tip that there may be illegal prostitution activity occurring at motel located on Commercial Way. Local detectives along with Wyoming Highway Patrol Troopers responded, and observed multiple individuals entering and later exiting a motel room. Further investigation revealed that a woman from Las Vegas was committing acts of prostitution, and officers made contact with three males suspected of being “customers” who were subsequently arrested on a variety of charges including Soliciting Prostitution, under Wyoming State Statute. Also in 2015, a web-based reverse sting was conducted at a motel in north Rock Springs. Members of the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office SNAAG (Sheriff’s Narcotics and Arrest Group) unit and county detectives arrested the men and charged them with soliciting an act of prostitution, after each had contacted a female undercover operative on the Internet, then solicited her to perform sex acts for money. Soliciting an act of prostitution is a misdemeanor in Wyoming that carries a maximum possible penalty of not more than six months imprisonment, a $750 fine, or both.
In May 2016, a joint agency prostitution suppression operation was conducted by Detectives, Deputies and Officers of the Rock Springs Police Department Street Crimes Unit (SCU) and the Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office Sheriff’s Narcotics and Arrest Group (SNAAG). As a result of the operation, four men were arrested for trying to buy sex from an undercover decoy. All four men were incarcerated at the Sweetwater County Detention Facility. The identities of the four men were included in news releases. An undercover sting operation in Rock Springs in June, 2017 led to the arrest of five men for soliciting prostitution. Detectives from the Street Crimes Unit and Patrol officers from the Rock Springs Police Department conducted two separate operations targeting individuals who were soliciting an act of prostitution. The identities of the five men were included in news releases.
In February, 2018 a Washington state man arrested with two teenage girls near Green River in Sweetwater County was charged with sex trafficking, according to federal court records, with a single count of “transportation of minors with intent to engage in criminal sexual activity” in U.S. District Court in Cheyenne. If convicted, the man faces 10 years to life imprisonment, and when released from custody faces five years to life supervised release. The man was already a registered sex offender, and would be ordered to pay $5,000 to the Justice for Victims of Trafficking Act. Sweetwater County Sheriff’s deputies arrested the man at Little America west of Green River on Interstate 80 in January, 2018, after receiving a report from a Little America employee about two girls in a restaurant hiding from a man. The two endangered female juveniles — ages 12 and 14 — were riding in a pickup traveling from Washington. They met the defendant at a Seattle home improvement store, where they were asking for rides to their grandmother; the man said he would do so only if they would be his sex partners. During the ride, the girls accessed his phone and saw messages between him and a friend related to kidnapping a female. One of the girls told an investigator that the man’s Kik account stated he rapes people and belongs to a “gang banger” group.
- Sweetwater County Sheriff’s Office
- Rock Springs Police Department
- Wyoming Highway Patrol
Web-Based Reverse Stings; Arrest and Shaming of Sex Buyers:
- http://www.sweetwaternow.com/rock-springs-detectives-prostitution-investigation-ends-multiple-arrests/ (2015)
- http://1360krkk.com/vice-operation-nets-six-arrests-in-rock-springs/ (2015)
- http://96kqsw.com/four-arrested-for-solicitation-of-prostitution/ (2016)
- https://wyo4news.com/news/five-men-arrested-soliciting-act-prostitution/ (2017)
- http://www.rocketminer.com/news/multiple-men-arrested-in-prostitution-stings/article (2017)
- https://k2radio.com/feds-charge-washington-man-for-transporting-teen-girls-for-sex/ (2018)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking and Prostitution
- http://people.com/archive/wyoming-mountain-town-is-shocked-by-the-death-of-a-good-cop (1978)
- https://www.denverpost.com/boomtown-rock-springs-wyo/ (2005)
- http://kgab.com/prostitution-probe-leads-to-rock-springs-meth-bust/ (2016)
- http://archive.sltrib.com/article (2016)
- https://www.ksl.com/draper-man-charged-with-murdering-utah-woman-in-wyoming-motel (2016)
- https://county17.com/2020/10/29/part-iii-grooming-victim/ (2020)