The arrest of more than 30 men and women as part of a Linn County prostitution sting began with a similar operation in Coralville earlier this year and could lead to more arrests in the area.
Of the 40 people arrested throughout this week, 37 were charged with prostitution and three were charged with miscellaneous crimes, according to a Linn County Sheriff’s office news release.
Linn County Sheriff Brian Gardner told The Gazette on Friday the sting operations took place at multiple hotels in Linn County. While he wouldn’t divulge the exact names and locations of the hotels, Gardner said one took place at a hotel in Marion on the operation’s first day and another took place at a hotel in Cedar Rapids on the second day. Gardner said each of the more than 20 agencies involved provided multiple officers, and around 40 total officers participated. Officials made sure they were never outnumbered in a sting, Gardner said.
According to criminal complaints for some of the people charged, male and female undercover officers either sought or offered sex acts in exchange for money . Prices on the services ranged from $180 to $400, according to the complaints The Gazette reviewed.
Gardner said officials first received information about possible prostitution in Linn County when officers worked on a similar bust in Coralville earlier this year. That sting netted 17 arrests. Gardner said officials began investigating the case by placing ads on popular websites, but would not say which sites were used specifically.
“If you want to sell a lawnmower, you go to a certain site,” Gardner said. “If you want to find a prostitute, you go to the same site.”
The operation officially ended Friday afternoon, he said, but more future stings are possible in the county.
Though no juveniles were involved in this case, Gardner stressed the fact human trafficking is an offshoot of prostitution. He acknowledged prostitution is a different type of crime because both parties involved usually consent to the act.
“That’s all fine and good, but what happens when you have someone doing this against their will?” Gardner said.
Gardner said officials will be taking a broader look at the issue, adding authorities need to make clear to the public prostitution is an illegal act.
The following individuals were charged through the sting with prostitution, an aggravated misdemeanor punishable by up to two years in prison and a $6,250 fine. A person charged with prostitution “sells or offers for sale the person’s services as a partner in a sex act, or who purchases or offers to purchase such services.”
The individuals with an asterisk were still in Linn County Jail as of Friday night, but the rest were released on a $2,000 bond.