Local Sting Operation Targets Internet Prostitution - Cleveland 19 News Cleveland, OH

Local Sting Operation Targets Internet Prostitution

CLEVELAND – It was the first-ever local sting operation targeting Internet prostitution, and The Investigator Tom Meyer had an exclusive, undercover look at sex for sale online.

Police said that ordering a prostitute is as easy as shopping online. With the risk of walking the street eliminated, more and more women are selling themselves over the Internet for up to $400 an hour.

They advertise themselves as escort services, but police said that the vast majority of the operations are nothing more than fronts for prostitution.

In the first-ever local sting operation targeting Internet prostitution, undercover deputies from the Cuyahoga County Sheriff's Department set up hidden cameras in local hotels. 19/43 News was there as they posed as customers and set up appointments with escorts from northeast Ohio.

One-by-one the women showed up, and within minutes, an escort offered her services by stripping down to her bra and panties. Little did she know that a hidden camera was rolling as she jumped in the sack with the undercover detective.

"She took off my underwear and started rubbing me," the detective later said.

Other detectives moved in before the woman could do anything else.

Police did some checking and found an escort who was also a convicted felon. She has a couple of drug cases pending.

The woman told The Investigator that she hooked up with an escort service to make more money.

"Drugs is how I got started," she said. "I needed money for drugs, and drugs don't make you care."

Up until now, no one locally has ever been arrested for prostituting themselves over the Internet.

"Even though they're the oldest profession in the world, and they've gone electronic, so have we," Cuyahoga County Sheriff Gerald McFaul said. "We're on the Internet everyday."

Detectives arrested another woman who had taken her clothes off and climbed into bed with an undercover detective. 19/43 News found her on a Web site called "Gentleman's Preference."

They also arrested another escort who was selling sex for $200 an hour. She was an independent escort and a mother featured on the Internet site "Anne's A List."

"I have five children, and a regular job wouldn't pay for day care and rent and utilities," she said.

The rapidly growing, multi-million dollar escort business is attracting women from all walks of life, including college students. Some escorts said that finding clients online is safer than walking the streets, but the county's top cop said don't be so sure.

"I hope this is part of a wake-up call," McFaul said. "We're not stopping on this. We will continue."

Four of the five escorts busted were charged with prostitution. The fifth one faces possible drug abuse charges because she was found with a crack pipe that is currently being tested for drug residue.

One escort said that the sheriff could arrest as many escorts as he wants, but it wouldn't stop the big business of selling sex online.

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