Massive prostitution bust in St. George, authorities say stings help combat human trafficking

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ST. GEORGE, Utah (ABC4 News) – A massive prostitution bust in St. George over the weekend landed 8 people behind bars. Detectives say these undercover stings can help them combat human trafficking. 

The sting operations began May 30th, according to probable cause statements. St. George police posted an ad online offering sex for money, and 8 individuals, now facing charges, contacted the undercover officer and went to the designated hotel with the intention of paying for sex. 

Those arrested are:
Rasheem Akeen Barrett, 32
Jay Lynn Farnsworth, 45
David Byron Johnson, 44
John William Poglajen, 57
Mytiawo O’Broderic Sanders, 23
Gary Lee Shockley, 70
Reyes Ordonez, 42
Michelle Torrez, 53

St. George police officer Tiffany Atkin said these stings help them locate trafficked juveniles and adults forced into the sex trade against their will. 
“We feel like it’s a very important cause,” Atkin said. “If it’s one juvenile, then it’s worth it.” 

Atkin said traffickers use an endless amount of tactics to coerce victims. 
“Being the loving person in the life of someone that doesn’t have that,” Atkin added. “The support, the father figure, the parent, the boyfriend, maybe it’s the drugs.” 

Amie Ellis of St. George said that two years ago she lived her worst nightmare after her daughter was kidnapped and became a victim of sex trafficking. 

“She was taken from Las Vegas and woke up the next day in Los Angeles,” Ellis said. 

Ellis added that traffickers can coerce those in need of extra validation by saying they will love them and take care of them. 

“You can’t describe the love that you have towards your children, and you also can’t describe this pain,” Ellis said. “It’s unbearable.” 

The mom added that it’s now her mission to bring awareness to this global concern because many don’t tend to realize it’s happening in their own communities. 

The National Human Trafficking Hotline reported 5,000 cases of human trafficking in 2018; 35 of those cases were in Utah. 

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