FLORENCE, SC (WMBF) – Eleven people were arrested in a prostitution sting run by Florence Police Department's Special Investigation Unit Wednesday night, according to Major Carlos Raines with FPD.
Florence Police wouldn't say where that sting went down, but police say they got several complaints about prostitution. Investigators used a popular website to set up the sting.
"We are aware of the sites that folks doing this use to advertise their service," said Major Carlos Raines, City of Florence Police Department.
Major Raines says these people responded to an ad on Backpage.com listing prostitution services.
"Well, as soon as the ad was put out they started getting calls," said Raines.
That's when an undercover officer posing as a prostitute arranged to meet at a local hotel, Raines said. Once a cash exchange was made, police said they moved in and made the arrests.
In all, eight men were arrested for prostitution after trying to solicit the Special Investigations Unit officer online. Officers also charged a number of the men for possession of marijuana, or possession with intent to distribute.
In addition to clients coming to the location, Florence Police also made contact with one of the people on the website who was soliciting, Maj. Raines said. The Special Investigations Unit had a male officer pretend he was a customer, and 19-year-old Monicra Givens of Timmonsville was arrested.
Shortly after her arrest, two men came to the sting location to check on her, Maj. Raines said. Police grabbed them as well; one of them, Rahseem Chestnut, 22, of Florence, admitted to knowing she was a prostitute, and he was also charged with prostitution. Kevin Rogers, 18, of Timmonsville, denied knowing her, but was charged with possession of marijuana.
"It's a problem everywhere. We try and address the inner city of Florence as often as possible," Raines said. Anytime the department gets a prostitution complaint, officers immediately try to eliminate the problem. Major Raines said the department ran a similar sting to disrupt online prostitution activity several months ago.
But police aren't the only ones making sure prostitution stays out of our hotels.
"There is a site that is called backpage.com. Regularly I check that on a daily basis," said Gigi Harrell, the general manager at Howard Johnson Hotel Inn, located on Highway 52.
Like police, Harrell said she frequently checks known prostitution websites to make sure that activity stays out of her hotel.
Many area hotels have a "Black List" with the names of people who were busted for prostitution. If someone tries to check in using one of those names, they are immediately turned away.
"There are a lot of things folks don't consider when we are doing this," said Raines.
Raines said making prostitution arrests is about more than stopping a crime; it protects the alleged prostitutes from becoming victims.
"In this particular case, one of the individuals arrested said they have been robbed doing the same thing in the past," said Raines.
Below is a list of the suspects arrested Wednesday night and their charges:
-Gary Locklear, 49, of Lumberton, NC. Charges: Sex/Prostitution, first offense, Possession of 28 grams or less or marijuana, first offense.
-Alvin Dimery, 24, of Florence. Charges: Sex/Prostitution, first offense, Possession of drugs with intent to distribute, first offense.
-Gregory Lemont, 35, of Darlington. Charges: Sex/Prostitution, first offense, Possession of drugs with intent to distribute, first offense.
-Howard Thurlow, 57, New Hartford, NY. Charge: Sex/Prostitution, first offense
-Ryan Perry, Plainville, CT. Charge: Sex/Prostitution, first offense
-Michael Dunnington, 59, of Sanford, FL. Charges: Sex/Prostitution, first offense, Possession of 28 grams or less or marijuana, first offense.
-Robert Turner, 52, of Bennettsville. Charges: Sex/Prostitution, first offense, Possession of 28 grams or less or marijuana, first offense.
-Richard Craig, 30, of Summerville. Charges: Sex/Prostitution, first offense, Possession of drugs with intent to distribute, first offense.
-Monicra Givens, 19, of Timmonsville. Charge: Sex/Prostitution, first offense.
-Rasheem Chestnut, 22, of Florence. Charge: Sex/Prostitution, first offense.
-Kevin Rogers, 18, of Timmonsville. Charge: Possession of 28 grams or less or marijuana, first offense.