Eight men from Indiana and three other states have been arrested in connection with a sting operation targeting the solicitation of teenage girls to have sex for money, police report.
Those arrested were Richard N. Holman Jr., 60, of Holton; Jaceson A. Gahl, 19, and Hector De Acruz, 39, both of Indianapolis; Christopher C. Wylie, 33, of Amelia, Ohio; Thomas P. Roesser, 36, of Flowery Branch, Georgia; Quentin G. Newton, 37, of Evansville; Johnny R. Lynn, 54, of Bedford; and Steven C. Frey, 30, of Owensboro, Kentucky.
The anti-human trafficking and anti-pedophile sting operation dubbed Operation March Sadness was conducted between Tuesday and Thursday of this past week by the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department at two locations in Seymour, according to a news release from Jackson County Sheriff Rick Meyer.
Planning started this past January, Meyer said, and the operation was supported by Covenant Rescue Group, a nonprofit organization not affiliated with any vigilante group. Covenant supports law enforcement through training and operations, Meyer said.
On the first day of the operation, members of the sheriff’s department, Bartholomew County Sheriff’s Department and Covenant communicated online with individuals using sex trafficking and prostitution websites. Officials with the Jackson County Prosecutor’s Office were present for operations and answered any legal questions that came up.
Officers used decoy profiles for females age 15 to 19 as part of the sting, and all eight men arrested came to the operation site and were taken into custody after attempting to make physical contact with a decoy.
Five of those arrested — Holman, Wylie, Lynn, Frey and Acruz — face charges of attempting to have sex with a child under the age of 16 (child solicitation) and attempted sexual misconduct with a minor, both Level 4 felonies.
Gahl faces those same two charges, but his are Level 5 felonies because he was under the age of 21.
Frey also faces a charge of dealing in methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony.
The remaining two arrests happened after the men came to the operation site to pay for sex with a female older than 15.
One of the men, Roesser, promised to pay a decoy with a controlled substance or money and was carrying methamphetamine and ecstasy, police said.
Besides a charge of making an unlawful proposition, a Class A misdemeanor, he faces charges of dealing in methamphetamine, a Level 5 felony; possession of methamphetamine, a Level 6 felony; and possession of a controlled substance, a Class A misdemeanor.
The other man, Newton, faces a charge of making an unlawful proposition, also a Class A misdemeanor.
Throughout the operation, 7,000 messages were sent and received, and all suspects had intentions of having sex for money with girls between the ages of 15 and 19.
Lt. Adam Nicholson with the Jackson County Sheriff’s Department said none of the sting was conducted outside the county, but other people, who are suspected sex traffickers, attempted to lure girls into going to Louisville and Indianapolis during the operation. Those two have not been arrested.
Nicholson said the sheriff’s department contacted the Johnson County Sheriff’s Department, which conducted a similar operation with the help of Covenant Rescue Group and had positive results.
Covenant sent a team of six people — including four from Alabama, one from New York and one from California — to assist with the sting.
In Indiana, a Level 4 felony means two to 12 years in prison with an advisory sentence of six years if convicted. A Level 5 felony runs one to six years in prison with an advisory sentence of three years upon conviction.
According to Federal Bureau of Investigation statistics included with the sheriff’s department’s news release, one in 25 children ages 10 to 17 has received an online sexual solicitation where the solicitor has tried to make offline contact. For every sexual predator arrested, 25 lives will be saved from being negatively impacted.
The FBI also reports 65% of online sex offenders use the victim’s social networking site to gain home and school information about the victim. To gain information about the victim’s whereabouts at the time, 26% of online sex offenders used the victim’s social networking site.
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