PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence police have arrested 22 men and charged them with soliciting sex as the result of an undercover prostitution sting.
Mayor Jorge Elorza, Public Safety Commissioner Steven Pare, Police Chief Col. Hugh Clements, and Day One Executive Director Peg Langhammer held a news conference Friday afternoon to announce the results of Operation Backpage.
The operation started about three weeks ago when city police posted ads on the website Backpage, posing as prostitutes.
“We’re going to continue trying to stamp out this problem because it’s victimizing too many both young women and women in our community,” said Pare.
Mayor Elorza said the website is a relatively new tool for the sex and human trafficking industries.
“It’s playing a huge role in prostitution and sex trafficking in Rhode Island,” he said Friday. “They’re not necessarily women. Many, many are kids.”
Once they receive a reply to one of their ads on the site, undercover detectives would pose as women soliciting sex at nearby hotels.
“We’re finding that 70% of the victims aren’t even reporting the crimes because they don’t want their identity exposed,” said Col. Clements.
Officials made it clear they’re searching for ways to hold Backpage accountable from a legal standpoint.
“They’re willfully and knowingly continuing to allow their site to be used in this way,” said Mayor Elorza.
Elorza said the use of Backpage is also leading to other crimes. Ashley Masi, whose death on Tuesday was declared the city’s first homicide of the year, was on Backpage, according to Elorza.
The mayor also had a message for those utilizing Backpage, saying “You better look over your shoulder and use the site at your peril.”
The 22 men charged include:
- Christopher Kingsley, age 21
- Steven Pimental, age 37
- Brian Cote, age 53
- Earl Goodby, age 65
- Jason Hiatt, age 38
- McGeary LittleJohn, age 28
- Juan Barona, age 31
- Randall Micale, age 48
- Ricky Lliguicota, age 22
- Aloysius Nyanford, age 30
- Wilmont Smith, Jr., age 33
- Raymond Wyss, age 41
- Michael DeMonti, age 37
- Gian Papa, age 24
- Dustin Chamberlain, age 22
- Alejandro Martinez-Andino, age 22
- Jarred Martin, age 28
- Owen O’Connor, age 39
- Bard Moshagen, age 45
- Matthew Madison, age 32
- Mark Condon, age 56
- Andre Williams, age 21
The police department said the operation is still in effect.