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June 3, 2013

“Operation Flush the Johns” Prostitution Sting Results in Arrest of 104 “Johns”

Month-long operation used Backpage.com to connect johns with undercover police officers posing as sex workers

MINEOLA, N.Y. – A month-long, undercover operation conducted by the Nassau County District Attorney’s Office and the Nassau County Police Department (NCPD) has resulted in the arrest of 104 suspected johns accused of using the website Backpage.com to arrange meetings with undercover police officers posing as prostitutes.

Visual and audio footage of each meeting was captured by hidden cameras located in the hotel rooms that served as the scene of the stings. The group of men arrested includes doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, and other professionals.

The defendants have all been arraigned and pleaded not guilty to the crime of Patronizing a Prostitute in the Third Degree. Each defendant faces a maximum of one year in jail if convicted of the charge.

The arrests, which took place between April 18 and May 24, mark a dramatic expansion in how Nassau County law enforcement agencies traditionally target prostitution. In the last ten years, fewer than 40 johns have been arrested by police.

“Sex workers are often vulnerable victims of traffickers and pimps, yet they too often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “My office and the police department are turning the tables on the illogical and immoral nature of that equation.”

The NCPD placed online ads on Backpage.com advertising escort services provided by both women and men. Each ad provided a phone number, and patrons called to arrange a rendezvous with an escort at a local hotel or motel where undercover officers had wired rooms with cameras. When the johns arrived, they met an officer posing as a prostitute, and once money was offered for sex, they were arrested and charged.

The arrests were announced by Rice and Police Commissioner Thomas Dale at press conference earlier today designed to publicize and deter the sex industry on Long Island.

“Not only do people have a right to know who their prosecutors and police are arresting and charging with crimes, but we know that the commission of this specific crime is dramatically affected by the perceived risk of getting caught,” said Rice. “We are giving fair warning to johns that the risk is growing rapidly.”

The charges are merely accusations and the defendants are presumed innocent until and unless proven guilty.