FBI Sting

FBI Sting Rescues 105 Kids, Nabs 159 Pimps—But What About the Johns?

The FBI just saved more than 100 kids from the sex trade, but what about the johns? By Michael Daly.

Frances Twitty/Getty

For a seventh year, the FBI has joined with local law enforcement in targeting child prostitution with Operation Cross Country, rescuing 105 kids from the sex trade and arresting 159 pimps.

That is up from 79 rescued kids and 105 arrested pimps last year. The year before, it was 69 kids and 99 pimps.

A few of the pimps may slip away with light sentences. Hershel Spencer was arrested in the 2012 sweep for pimping a 16-year-old girl in San Rafael, California, yet somehow wrangled a plea deal of time served, just 188 days behind bars.

But other pimps have been getting heavy time. Sirgiorgio Clardy got 100 years after being arrested in Beaverton, Oregon, during Operation Cross Country VI in 2012.

Pimps in Wisconsin have been receiving double-digit sentences. Derrick “Pimp Snooky” Avery was sent away for 20 years in 2010. The sentencing judge, Lynn Adelman, quoted the grandmother of one young trafficked teen saying of Avery, “He took everything from her, including her pride, her human dignity.”

Avery said of himself, “Pimp Snooky is a brand, like Pepsi.”

He contended that the real child victims in the case were the 26 kids he had by various women who would not have him around.

Another Milwaukee pimp, Todd “King Tut” Carter, got 25 years. A crony named Tyrone “HK” McMillan faces even heavier time after being convicted last month of pimping underage girls. He is locally famous for advertising on a billboard.

“I am Milwaukee,” his ad read.

Those sentences may have made Milwaukee pimps considerably more cautious, for none were swept up there in this year’s operation. That does not mean child prostitution was any less prevalent. The area reported 10 rescued victims, tying Detroit and behind only San Francisco, which had 12 rescues, highest among the 76 cities involved. Detroit reported the most pimp arrests, one more than San Francisco.

By contrast, the Chicago area reported one pimp and two freed children. But that metropolis was apparently alone in reporting a tally in another category, the arrest of 96 johns. Not all of those creeps patronized underage prostitutes, but you can bet some of them did.

The FBI says it cannot provide numbers of arrested johns in other jurisdictions, as solicitation is considered a matter for local enforcement.

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“Nationally, we are just reporting juveniles and pimps,” an FBI spokeswoman said.

But if it is possible to charge someone in federal court with child pornography there should a way to charge someone there for having sex with a child. If not, then it is time to change the law.

A pimp may become a little more cautious, but he is still going to be a pimp because the alternative is working for a living. A john is much more likely to be deterred by the prospect not just of the embarrassment of an arrest but the prospect of time in prison, where he himself might be trafficked.

In the Memphis part of this year’s sweep, the authorities pulled a sting using the pimps’ favorite site, Backpage.com, and arrested three people for allegedly coercing a 14-year-old into prostitution. The names of the suspects, 23-year-old Trenton Mitchell, 22-year-old Rodney Armstrong, and 19-year-old Charlisa Wright, were released along with their mug shots.

Why couldn’t they have just extended the sting to include patrons? There also could have been names and photos of johns. Had johns been targeted along with pimps in Memphis and elsewhere, the operation might have come even closer to its stated goal.

“We are trying to take this crime out of the shadows and put a spotlight on it,” said FBI Assistant Director Ronald Hosko.

And nobody fears the spotlight as creeps who would be shown for what they really are.