Wichita Falls, TX
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Wichita Falls is a city of approximately 105,000 residents, located in northern Texas. It is the county seat of Wichita County, TX, and the principal city of the Wichita Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area. Its central business district is five miles from Sheppard Air Force Base, the largest technical training wing and a NATO jet pilot training program. Prostitution and sex trafficking activity have been well-documented in the city and surrounding communities, and in unincorporated areas of the county. This activity and the problems and ancillary crimes it generates results in complaints to law enforcement agencies from residents and businesses. Among the more serious problems associated with commercial sex in the area include child sex trafficking. For example, in 2014 several suspects in a prostitution and human trafficking investigation were arrested, and charged with compelling prostitution by a juvenile and trafficking of a person. Police reported that a routine traffic stop led to the arrests of two people who were apart of an organized prostitution ring working in Wichita Falls, Vernon and other areas. A DPS Trooper says he searched the vehicle and found maps, hotel book coupons, and other items that led him to believe the two were part of a prostitution ring. DPS and the Department of Homeland Security launched an investigation, and said the two were advertising escort services on a website, and that the female suspect assisted the male to” recruit and train” a juvenile in their prostitution service.
There have also been local sex trafficking cases linked to the production of child sexual abuse materials (CSAM, also called “child pornography” in many state criminal codes). For example, in March, 2022, a Wichita Falls woman who was arrested in an alleged sex trafficking and “child pornography” case last year was sentenced to prison in a plea deal for eight of her nine charges. She was were arrested after a year-long DPS investigation that started in July 2020. Her co-defendant had a 16-count indictment alleging sex trafficking, possession of child pornography and promotion of lewd images of a child. According to their arrest affidavits, the investigation began when DPS agents in the Houston area were trying to recover a child, who was later found with the defendants. As part of the investigation, DPS officials recovered a cell phone and later found nude photos and videos of the child being sexually assaulted. The phone also reportedly had online escort ads of the female defendant. The male defendant admitted to obtaining money previously from the prostitution of his conspirator in Wichita Falls. Investigators believe they were going to post sex escort ads of the child, and that they were going to make money off of the victim on these online sex escort websites.
To combat prostitution and sex trafficking in the area, local law enforcement agencies have targeted consumer-level demand for commercial sex, which provides the revenue stream driving all commercial sex and trafficking. For example, in July, 2017, three men were arrested during a reverse sting Wichita Falls, when they showed up after being contacted by a cooperating witness working with the Wichita Falls Police Department’s Organized Crime Unit. Investigators said of the men each agreed to pay between $80 to $130 dollars, depending on the sexual act. In October 2017, a joint sting operation involving Texas DPS, several local law enforcement agencies, and the FBI targeting online child predators resulted in ten Wichita Falls area suspects being arrested and placed in the Wichita County jail. Four were charged with compelling prostitution from victims under age 18, and six were charged with online solicitation of a minor. The identities of the men were publicly disclosed.
In September, 2021, at least two Wichita Falls men was arrested for Solicitation of Prostitution during an undercover operation. According to allegations provided in an arrest warrant, a special agent with the Texas Department of Public Safety (DPS) Criminal Investigations Divisions conducted a one-day operation to target people attempting to solicit prostitutes online. The stated purpose was to combat human trafficking. “Operation Dear John” was conducted at a hotel in Wichita Falls. Police say the man responded to an ad and agreed to pay $100 for sexual intercourse. The special agent monitored text messages between the suspects and the undercover officer in which the man agreed to pay money for sex. The suspects arrived at a hotel and were arrested by officers for Solicitation of Prostitution. One of the men had a prior conviction for child abuse of a 4-year-old, and the other was a registered sex offender.
Some arrests of sex buyers in Wichita Falls are the product of investigations of alleged offenses with real victims, rather than reverse stings using decoys. For example, in November, 2020, Wichita Falls Police arrested a man on charges related to his attempting to buy sex with a child. According to the police report: officers investigated a report of 14-year-old girl being solicited for prostitution. The girl’s mother told them a man they knew from church had given her daughter a ride home, making a stop to try to get some marijuana, and then driving her to the Lake Wichita Spillway where he asked her what she would do for $40. The girl said the man leaned his car seat back, spread his legs and “upped” the offer to $100 and then $200. The girl turned him down, he joked about the offer and drove her home. She said he asked for her phone number, but she gave him a fake one. During an interview with police, the man corroborated the victim’s statement. He said he knew the victim was using marijuana and was sexually active and had said she would do sexual favors in exchange for the drug. He claimed he was trying to extract information from the girl to tell her mother. A warrant was issued, and police arrested the 54 year old man and charged him with Criminal Solicitation of a Minor-Compelling Prostitution Under Age 18. His bond was recommended at $200,000. This case was not a reverse sting, but involved the arrest of a sex buyer and public disclosure of their identity.
In May, 2022, a Wichita Falls man was taken into custody after allegedly driving to Lucy Park to pay for paid sex. He was arrested and charged for solicitation of prostitution. Officers with WFPD’S Organized Crime Unit reportedly saw a woman get into a car the man was driving. According to an arrest affidavit, they followed the car from the 2300 block of Seymour Highway to 100 Sunset Dr. in Lucy Park, where the car reportedly parked in a secluded area and put a sunshade in the front windshield. The officers approached the car believing there was an act of prostitution taking place. There was $70 on the car’s center console, according to an arrest affidavit. When the two parties were separated and interviewed, the woman reportedly alleged that the man had offered her $80 to perform a sexual act. The man said he was friends with her and admitted to a sexual act but didn’t say he had offered the woman money.
- Wichita Falls Police Department
- Organized Crime Unit
- Texas DPS
- Department of Homeland Security
- Police Department
- County Sheriff’s Office
- Wichita County Jail
Reverse Stings, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.texomashomepage.com/three-men-arrested-during-undercover-prostitution-sting (2017)
- https://www.timesrecordnews.com/three-men-arrested-reportedly-soliciting-sex (2017)
- https://www.timesrecordnews.com/texas-dps-sting-wichita-falls-man-arrested-solicitation-prostitution/ (2022)
- https://www.texomashomepage.com/local-news/two-arrested-in-wf-undercover-prostitution-sting-operation-dear-john/ (2022)
Arrest of Sex Buyer, Identity Disclosure:
- https://www.timesrecordnews.com/older-man-solicits-teen-sex (2020)
- https://www.newschannel6now.com/wf-man-accused-soliciting-prostitution-minor/ (2020)
- https://www.texomashomepage.com/wichita-falls-man-charged-compelling-prostitution-14-year-old-girl/ (2020)
- https://www.newschannel6now.com/wf-man-arrested-soliciting-prostitution-lucy-park/ (2022)
Background on Local Prostitution and Sex Trafficking, CSAM, Related Crimes (e.g., child endangerment, drugs, weapons offenses):
- https://www.texomashomepage.com/man-jailed-in-alleged-sex-trade-ring-in-wichita-falls (2014)
- https://www.texomashomepage.com/woman-jailed-after-prostitution-investigation (2015)
- https://www.justice.gov/wichita-falls-man-sentenced-156-months-federal-prison-charges-involving-promoting (2017)
- https://www.timesrecordnews.com/anthony-benedict-pleads-guilty-compelling-prostitution/ (2022)
- https://sports.yahoo.com/man-pleads-guilty-prostitution-charge (2022)
- https://www.texomashomepage.com/woman-sentenced-in-human-trafficking-child-porn-case/ (2022)
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