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Webb County, Texas is located along the Mexican border and has a population of approximately 268,000 residents. Its largest city and government seat is Laredo. Prostitution and sex trafficking have been persistent and visible problems within the cities and unincorporated area of the county for decades. Among the serious related crimes have been the serial killing of persons exploited in commercial sex. For example, in September 2018, a veteran U.S. Customs and Border Patrol agent was arrested and charged with crimes associated with the murder of at least four people in Laredo, specifically targeting vulnerable women with drug problems. The man was accused of killing three women and one transgender woman in a two-week span. A fifth alleged potential victim thwarted his plans for her when she escaped at a gas station and alerted police. The serial killer reportedly confessed to the crimes in September, 2018, and was arraigned on four counts of murder and one count of kidnapping, and was held in jail on more than $2 million bond. Court documents from a separate, unrelated case showed that the man reportedly specialized in narcotics and human trafficking and was at one point in charge of patrolling I-95 and intercepting vehicles suspected of trafficking drugs and humans. At least one of his victims was later found along that same route. Investigators said they had “very strong evidence” that the man was responsible for the deaths of four women who were “working as prostitutes.” One of the victims was a transgender woman, according to the Webb County District Attorney. In February, 2022, the Webb County Pct. 1 Constable was charged with one count of enticing an individual to travel in interstate of foreign commerce to engage in prostitution. The charge carried a jail sentence of up to 20 years and a $250,000 fine, plus five years to life of supervised release. He announced his retirement as Constable in March 2022. In September, 2022, the former Webb County Constable entered a plea deal to a charge for enticing a foreign person to engage in prostitution, and was sentenced to 12 months and one day in prison, followed by five years of supervised release.
In an effort to identify and apprehend the city’s sex buyers, the Webb County Sheriff’s Office, Laredo Police Department’s Narcotics and Vice Unit, and sometimes other agencies have conducted numerous street-level reverse stings. Operations typically utilize an undercover female officer, who serves as a decoy in an area known for commercial sex sales. When johns attempt to solicit the officer, they are arrested. Police routinely release the names and photos of offenders to the local media. For example, in June 2019, eleven men were arrested and charged with prostitution during a sting operation by the Laredo Police Department Narcotics Unit conducted at the 3600 block of San Bernardo and San Agustin Avenue between the hours of 6 p.m. and 9:30 p.m one night. Mug shots and identifying information about all of the arrested men were included in news releases.
In September, 2019 an off-duty Border Patrol agent was arrested for soliciting prostitution after a several month investigation led by the Laredo Police Department, in conjunction with the FBI and Customs and Border Patrol Office of Professional Responsibility. Through the course of the investigation, the agent was identified as a person to have solicited an undocumented, transgender person for prostitution. The case was then presented to the Webb County District Attorney’s Office who determined there was sufficient evidence to secure the warrant of arrest. The man was booked and processed then remanded to Webb County Jail in lieu of a $500 bond.
- Webb County Sheriff’s Office
- Webb County-Zapata County District Attorney’s Office
- Laredo Police Department
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- “20 Men Arrested in Prostitution Sting”, NBC/KGNS-TV 8, October 13 2008.
- “LPD Narcotics and Vice Unit Arrest 12 Men in Undercover Prostitution Sting”, Laredo Buzz, March 27 2010.
- “Operation John: LPD Narcotics and Vice Unit Arrest 10 Men in Prostitution Sting”, Laredo Buzz, May 28 2010.
- http://laredobuzz.com/operation-john-lpd-narcotics-and-vice-unit-arrest-10-men-in-prostitution-sting/laredo-texas (2010)
- “LPD Narcotics & Vice Squad Round Up Seven ‘Johns’ on City’s West Side”, Laredo Buzz, February 28 2011.
- https://www.kgns.tv/Ten-men-arrested-in-prostitution-bust (2019)
- https://www.kgns.tv/content/Border-Patrol-Agent-arrested-for-allegedly-soliciting-prostitution (2019)
- https://www.newsweek.com/border-patrol-agent-arrested-soliciting-transgender-undocumented-immigrant-prostitute (2019)
Background on Local Sex Trafficking:
- “S.A. Girl Testifies Boyfriend Forced Her into Prostitution”, San Antonio Express-News, October 1 2009.
- https://www.detroitnews.com/sheriff-border-agent-suspected-killing-women (2018)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/Legal-trouble-led-to-Webb-Co-Constable-s-sudden-retitement (2022)
- https://www.kgns.tv/former-webb-county-constable-spend-year-federal-prison/ (2022)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/Former-Webb-County-constable-begins-prison-term (2022)
Background on Prostitution, Homicide, Related Violence in the Area:
- http://laredobuzz.com/lpd-prostitution-sting-nets-15-arrests/ (2009)
- “Laredo Police Combat Prostitution”, Laredo Sun, May 2 2010.
- https://www.lmtonline.com/LPD-Mami-Chulas-employee-arrested-for-public (2017)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/Man-woman-arrested-on-prostitution-charges-in-Laredo (2018)
- https://www.thedailybeast.com/serial-killer-allegedly-preyed-on-women-with-drug-problems (2018)
- https://www.lmtonline.com/Laredo-police-prostitution-sting-nets-three-women (2018)
- https://www.npr.org/border-patrol-agent-pleads-not-guilty-to-killing-4-sex-workers (2019)
- https://foxsanantonio.com/border-agent-shot-4-female-sex-workers-in-the-head (2019)