Yellowstone County contains Billings, the largest city in Montana and the state capitol. Prostitution has been a persistent and visible problem in the county, and within the city of Billings, for decades. In an effort to identify and deter potential sex buyers, the Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office has collaborated with the Billings Police Department and other agencies to conduct reverse stings. For example, in August, 2013, the Billings Police Department announced that 25 people had been arrested for soliciting prostitution from an undercover officer. The operation was conducted by the City County Special Investigations Unit over a two week period. The CCSIU is made up of Billings Police and Yellowstone County Sheriff’s deputies.
City officials and community members have noted an upsurge in web and storefront solicitation, suggesting some of Billings’ prostituted women (and their customers) may have moved their operations indoors and/or online. To address this shift in the market, Billings’ police have incorporated web-based reverse stings into their operations, and routinely release sex buyers’ names and photos to the media. In November, 2017, a man responded to an ad placed during a prostitution sting conducted by the Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation. When he arrived at a Billings hotel and agreed to buy sex with a child, he was arrested. He was later sentenced to five years in prison at the Montana Department of Corrections. He was found to have previously violated probation on a sexual abuse of children conviction from October 2014: While out on bond on the 2014 case, the offender was caught in February 2015 in a prostitution sting in Bismarck, North Dakota.In July, 2018 a man charged, and a sex trafficking victim rescued, after an investigation into an online ad for sex in the Billings area. He pleaded not guilty in Yellowstone County District Court to a single count of prostitution, a felony.
- Yellowstone County Sheriff’s Office
- Yellowstone County District Court
- Billings Police Department
- Montana Department of Justice’s Division of Criminal Investigation
Street-Level Reverse Stings:
- “School Principal Is Challenging Prostitution Law,” Spokane Chronicle, January 17 1990.
- https://www.kulr8.com/news/prostitution-busts (2013)
Web-Based Reverse Stings with Shaming:
- “6th Charged in Prostitution Case,” Billings Gazette, April 3 2009.
- https://billingsgazette.com/news/crime/man-charged-again-in-billings-prostitution-sting-trafficking-victim-rescued (2018)
Sex Trafficking and Child Sexual Exploitation in the Area:
- “Men Charged with Making Girl Prostitute,” Ocala Star-Banner, December 21 1984.
- “Juvenile,” Deseret News, July 6 1993.
- “Woman Charged with Promoting 17-Year-Old for Prostitution, Held on $35,000 Bond,” Billings Gazette, December 24 2015.
Background on Prostitution in the Area:
- “Scarlet Women Are Given Time; Billings Mayor Fails to Compel Them to Get out and They Are Allowed Two Months’ Leeway,” Roundup Record, November 28 1913.
- “Prostitutes Help Law,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, August 8 1980.
- “People Pestered by Prostitutes,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, March 17 1983.
- “Police Rapped for Not Arresting Billings Prostitutes’ Customers,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, November 17 1983.
- “8 Charged with Prostitution,” Spokane Spokesman-Review, January 16 1985.
- “Gregory L. McFarland and Myong Suk McFarland Sentenced in U.S. District Court,” Press Release, U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Montana, February 1 2012.
- “Billings Man Sentenced for Promoting Prostitution from Jail,” Ravalli Republic, June 19 2013.
- “Neighbor Describes Interactions with Prostitution Business Owners,” NBC/KULR-TV 8, August 20 2013.
- “California Man Sentenced for Prostitution-Related Racketeering Charges,” NBC/KULR-TV 8, November 6 2015.
- “California Man Admits Bringing 2 Women to Billings to Make Money on Prostitution,” Billings Gazette, March 2 2016.
- https://www.greatfallstribune.com/my-montana/prostitution-gambling-widespread-throughout Montana (2018)
Documented Violence against Individuals Engaged in Prostitution in the Area: