If you advertise it, they will come. At least, apparently, if that “it” happens to be sex.
An undercover sting operation carried out by a small-town police force brought in alleged “Johns” from an area that stretched from Albany to Tifton to Valdosta to Moultrie.
Berlin officials say a recent reverse sting operation resulted in 23 arrests on pandering and trespassing charges.
Some of those charged in the Oct. 26 and 27 operation also face charges on other offenses, including drunk driving, and drug possession after they responded to online sex ads, the Berlin Police Department said. The agency also said it seized more than $100 in counterfeit money that one alleged customer had planned to use to pay for sex.
The men were all booked under charges of pandering or a city ordinance of disorderly conduct/pandering.
Fifteen were released after posting a bond and eight were taken to Colquitt County Jail. Of those taken to jail, five were from Valdosta, and one each were from Albany, Moultrie and Tifton. Two are still the target of active investigations, authorities said.
The department decided to conduct the “reverse-sting” operation after hearing that there were women in Berlin trading sex for prescription medications or cash, said Berlin Ofc. Raymond Bedal.
The agency decided to lure men seeking to pay for sex to the city using online ads on craigslist.com, backpage.com, backescorts.com, plentyoffish.com, adam4adam.com and “The Valdosta Underground Sex Club,” police reports said.
“During the monitoring of the above illicit sites servicing the outlying regions of the Albany, Moultrie and Valdosta area during the week prior to this sting, there were seventeen individuals advertising for performance of illicit prostitution services just on one of the six social media sites alone (backpage.com) seeking paying ‘Johns’ for the weekend of Oct. 25-26,” the reports said.
A reporter’s web search for the term backpage.com brought up a listing whose first heading was for “Macon escorts,” and the first topic listed under the web address of the Valdosta area sex club was a listing for “Underground Sex Club” boasting of nearly 104,000 members.
Earlier this year a Tifton man reported being robbed when a woman he negotiated with on an internet site came to a motel room in Moultrie for sex for money. He told Moultrie police that when he went into the bathroom to take off his clothes the woman took his money and left.
In Berlin’s operation, police said they used a vacant house on Brice Street — with the homeowner’s permission — to set up, putting in video and audio equipment on the outside and inside to record men arriving and walking into the house.
Prior to that, they put several fake profiles on the above listed websites, and invited men who had previously initiated conversations of paying for sexual favors.
“The five-step protocol was adhered to strictly during the observation that only led to approximately 1/16 of the online phone solicitors to be given the address, and several others being allowed to depart without charges for taking the last step “opt-out” in the protocol even after they had solicited for sexual services and arrived with the money in hand,” police reports said.
Only those who initiated contact by phone or email, and who discussed sex and money "in the same context," were allowed to continue through the process, and those who had five contacts with those posing as escorts without bringing up the subject had their numbers blocked, the reports said. Callers and texters responded to ads of several fictitious call girls and one call guy.
The alleged customers who were arrested were instructed to make a call after arriving near the Brice Street residence and to stay on the phone while driving up to the house, the reports said. An undercover agent went out on the porch, gave the house number and kept perspective customers on the line until they arrived. She or he then entered the residence and left the door open, allowing the men to make the decision on whether or not to enter.
"This was done for the purpose of proving without a doubt that the person (and phone number) who had previously solicited for prostitution was in fact the same offender arriving in the driveway," the reports said.
The eight booked into Colquitt County Jail on Oct. 26 and 27 were each charged with pandering and trespassing:
• Steven Robert Carter, 22, 2418 Winding Way, Valdosta
• Marcus Demand Christian, 26, 1620 E. Park Ave. Apt. 8, Valdosta
• Quentin Denard McCann, 30, 601 N. Forrest St., Valdosta
• Maurice Martel Moore, 23, 1515 Fourth Ave. N.E. Apt. H-7, Moultrie
• Curtis Lee Owens Jr., 24, 2305 Nottingham Way Apt. 3, Albany
• Randy Parker Jr., 24, 27 Mount Olive Church Road, Tifton
• Tommy Lee Sanders Jr., 27, 807 Hudson St., Valdosta
• Devon Jovan Simmons, 28, 2349 Harter Ave., Valdosta
• In addition, Carter also was charged with driving under the influence, driving without a license on person and open container in vehicle; McCann with open container in vehicle and driving while license suspended; Owens with possession of marijuana and open container in vehicle; Parker with possession of marijuana; and Sanders with possession of marijuana and open container in vehicle.
The Moultrie Observer has requested from Berlin police the ages and addresses of the other men charged with disorderly conduct/pandering whose names were released. As of press time that information was not released.
They were identified by name and race only: Carver Jackson Dahl, white male; Nickolas Carrol Davis, white male; Robert Walter Dean, white male; Marcus Dennis Everett, black male; Adrian Levince Hargett, black male; Scott Christopher Hunter, white male; James Robert Hurst, white male; Kyung Sup Kwak, Asian male; Arnulfo Santos Jimenez-Ramirez, Hispanic male; Jong Min Lee, Asian male; Charles Tyrone Lightner Jr, black male; Andrew Scott Richman, white male; Amy Brad Rowan Jr., white male.
Hurst and Kwak also were charged with possession of marijuana, and Jimenez-Ramirez was charged with driving while unlicensed.
Charged with obstruction of a law enforcement only was Jong Hun An.