The Anatomy of a Prostitution Sting Operation In Henrico Virginia

In 2007, Henrico County Police Department reactivated it’s vice task force and put it to work, renting motel rooms and posting ads on the Craigslist and Backpage websites, setting up “sting operations” to arrest people for prostitution and solicitation of a prostitute. The postings are suggestive of prostitution and invite the reader to call for an appointment. Now that Craigslist has relented to public pressure and stopped posting ads that explicitly offer sexual services, Backpage provides the police with the primary conduit for laying their traps. Over the years, the Henrico vice squad has become quite proficient and has recently assisted in training a similar unit with the Chesterfield County Police Department.

The Anatomy of a Prostitution Sting Operation In Henrico Virginia

The Anatomy of a Prostitution Sting Operation In Henrico Virginia

The police team prefers to rent adjoining rooms; one for the undercover officer (the decoy) posing as a prostitute and the other for the arrest team to use. The team typically consists of the decoy and 3 or 4 other officers. They arrive with a kit in what appears to be luggage, containing video recording devices, a laptop computer, and other equipment. When a suspect arrives for his “date,” the encounter between him and the decoy is recorded. The decoy’s job is to get him to commit the elements of the offense so that the “crime” can be recorded. These elements are:

  • to offer money or its equivalent to another for the purpose of engaging in fornication or other specific sexual acts
  • and thereafter does any substantial act in furtherance thereof

This means that for the police to make a case, the suspect must offer payment for regular sex, oral sex, or some form of sodomy, and then commit some act showing that he intends to follow through with the deal. Payment of the money is almost always sufficient to constitute the “substantial act” and courts have ruled that just showing up to the motel room is sufficient. A well-trained decoy will avoid the “entrapment” defense by asking the suspect what he has come for, attempting to get the suspect to make the first suggestion of an illegal act. Then she will usually tell the “John” to put the money on the table. Once the deal is made and the money paid, the typical script calls for her to go into the bathroom to “freshen up.” All of this is being watched and recorded by the arrest team in the next room. While the unsuspecting suspect is following the decoy’s suggestion to make himself comfortable, the arrest team enters the room, quickly secures him, and then takes him into the next room for processing. At this point, to further shore up their case, and before the hapless suspect has time to consider his situation, one of the police officers will usually question him and attempt to obtain his confession on the key points of the alleged offense. This is done quickly, and the suspect becomes the accused, being charged on a summons with solicitation of prostitution along with any other relevant charges and released with instructions to depart the area forthwith. The police are usually anxious to be done with one arrest so that they are ready for the next suspect that enters their trap. The vice squad sometimes reverses the sting, answering advertisements for sexual services and requesting an outcall, thereby inviting a suspected prostitute to enter their trap. The Henrico vice squad has been as bold as to conduct both operations at the same time and have been successful in managing the carefully timed movements necessary to pull this off.

If you have found yourself the victim of one of these sting operations, you should seek legal advice as soon as you are able. Our firm has successfully defended many such cases and saved clients from the indignity of a permanent criminal record of these kinds of charges. If the client contacts us soon enough, we advise them to do a number of things that help with their defense.

We have client meeting locations in Fairfax, Prince William, Richmond, Loudoun, Virginia Beach, Fredericksburg, and Lynchburg.

Our firm has the experience to spot weaknesses in the prosecution’s case that that is frequently missed. Often these are very technical points of the case that the client thinks unimportant. If our counsel is required, call us toll free at (888) 437-7747.

Article contributed by Bryan Block
Sris Law Group


These summaries are provided by the SRIS Law Group. They represent the firm’s unofficial views of the Justices’ opinions. The original opinions should be consulted for their authoritative content.

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