The Flagler County Sheriff’s Office last Thursday (Nov. 19) arrested five women on misdemeanor prostitution charges in the second such local sting operation in three weeks. None of the women are a local resident: they’d traveled from Jacksonville, Daytona Beach and St. Augustine to conduct what they thought was the usual business transaction.
The sheriff’s office based its investigation on ads posted to various websites “known by law enforcement to be frequently used to solicit prostitution,” according to the investigators. The undercover detectives made arrangements to meet the individuals “at an undisclosed location in Flagler County,” according to the arrest reports, which don’t list the location. Three years ago, the last time the agency conducted a sting operation aimed at prostitution, detectives set up a room at the Days Inn in Palm Coast as the lair. In that instance, the targets were the customers, not the service providers.
On Election Day the agency set up a sting operation at Graham Swamp, site of frequent sheriff’s operations generally focused on men.
The method of last Thursday’s sting followed the same pattern in all five cases.
A 49-year-old Jacksonville woman made contact with a detective by text then met him at the location. She’d been surprised by the limited extent of the service requested (the same activity special prosecutor Ken Starr investigated with tumescent zeal during Bill Clinton’s second term). “That’s it?” the woman asked the detective (or the undercover operative), “insinuating that other sexual acts could be done,” according to the arrest report. Nevertheless, none were requested.
The arranged fee was $380, which included the price of the drive from Jacksonville. Again the woman asked if there was really nothing else desired, and when the answer was no, she placed the money in her bra, at which point the takedown signal was given and one of her Romeos read her her Miranda rights.
A 49-year-old woman exchanged texts with a corporal and a meeting was arranged with an undercover operative. Once they met, at 11:10 p.m., the undercover asked the woman what was off limits and what was permissible. They agreed to the parameters of the encounter and the undercover paid the pre-arranged fee, not disclosed in this case. Once the money was exchanged, the undercover “gave the takedown signal,” and the woman was arrested. The woman during her interview with detectives allegedly admitted that she’d traveled for sex.
A 41-year-old resident of St. Augustine was arrested for driving another woman to the undisclosed location, allegedly aware that it was for a sexual encounter, though the woman denied she knew it was for prostitution. A 36-year-old resident of St. Augustine was also arrested on the charges the other women face–second offense for engaging in prostitution.
One of the women, 31-year-old Tierra Austin of Middleburg, ended up facing more than a misdemeanor prostitution charge. As with the other cases, she’d set up the encounter by text and agreed to a $140 fee for a couple of standard acts, but she allegedly told the arresting deputies that she had some crack cocaine in her purse. Less than a gram was found, along with four crack pipes and other paraphernalia. That resulted in a felony charge of cocaine possession.
Three detectives, a sergeant, a corporal and special agents from homeland security were involved in the sting.