Medford police arrested 11 men who allegedly sought sex from prostitutes, two men accused of promoting prostitution and seven women during an undercover sex-trafficking sting.
Police said they posted online ads on known sex-trafficking websites and apps, and also responded to ads posted by others on the same platforms. The men were arrested as they arrived at Medford hotels, which cooperated with police during the operations in late May.
"We couldn't believe how eager they were to engage in this activity," said MPD Detective Lt. Mike Budreau. "From the minute we posted the ads to when we did the operation, our phone was ringing off the hook."
Budreau said police tried to space out the men's appointments as they arrived with the expectation of meeting prostitutes. But some had to be detained quietly in other rooms as other men kept arriving.
"It was rather a busy, somewhat chaotic event. We were flooded with phone calls and texts," he said.
Lafayette Toney, 35, of Stockton, California, remains in the Jackson County Jail facing charges of promoting prostitution, resisting arrest and tampering with evidence after the stings.
The evidence is listed as a cellphone in an indictment. Toney pleaded not guilty and has a July 11 trial scheduled in Jackson County Circuit Court, court documents show.
Anterion Dante Lavar Suggs, 29, of Sacramento, California, remains jailed on charges of promoting prostitution, tampering with evidence and possession of methylenedioxymethamphetamine, commonly known as ecstasy.
Suggs pleaded not guilty to the charges. A pre-trial conference hearing set for Monday was canceled and has yet to be rescheduled, court records show.
Both men have bail set at $250,000.
The 11 men who responded to the prostitution ads were given citations for the misdemeanor crime of patronizing a prostitute.
The cited men were Derek Sternal Lahr, 34, of Grants Pass; Ryan Henry Prevedel, 39, of Eagle Point; Christopher Edward Smith, 48, of Ashland; Robert Samuel Lavell, 28, of Medford; Iqbal "Jay" Singh Rahal, 37, of Medford; Daniel Dougherty, 35, of Jacksonville; Jashua Kevin Tastaca, 24, of Wilderville; June Ceasar Emata Balagtas, 21, of Central Point; Sergio Garcia-Riquiz, 37, of Medford; William Jon Courtney, 52, of Medford; and Kenneth Douglas Boardman, 29, of Medford.
Seven females also responded to a hotel to meet undercover officers with the intent of engaging in sexual encounters for money. Six were charged with prostitution, Budreau said. One of the women did not appear in court records.
The females are believed to be involved in organized sex trafficking from out of the area and will not be identified as the investigation continues, police said.
Police are also continuing to investigate whether the people arrested for allegedly promoting prostitution are involved in organized sex trafficking, Budreau said.
"Sex trafficking is something that is going on and is going on just about every day, based on what we monitor," he said. "It occurs under people's noses and they don't necessarily know about it. The more we learn about sex trafficking and human trafficking, the more we realize it needs to stop. A lot of females involved in prostitution are not able to easily get out of it. They are manipulated and beaten and they don't have any resources to get out of it."
Budreau said the females often get very little of the money they earn through prostitution.
"The money goes to the trafficker, who usually has several women doing this for him," he said.
Budreau said Medford police consulted with Rebecca Bender and Redemption Ridge while planning the operation. Bender is a survivor of human trafficking and has become an expert on the issue. The Redemption Ridge organization advocates for and assists victims of sex trafficking.
Budreau said sex traffickers are frequently on the move.
"Almost all of it is organized crime. Women and girls are trafficked up and down the West Coast and across the U.S. The ads rotate through a West Coast circuit and you can almost follow their path based on the ads," he said.
For men interested in visiting prostitutes, Budreau issued a warning. He said Medford police are not done with their sex-trafficking stings.
"We're absolutely going to continue to do this kind of operation," Budreau said. "Hopefully it won't be as successful in the future."