East Baton Rouge Parish authorities arrested more than 15 people in an undercover prostitution sting this week as part of a nationwide FBI crackdown on the illegal sex industry.
The sting — part of Operation Cross Country, a long-running FBI program that aims to rescue children caught up in sex trafficking while also arresting adults responsible for the practice — netted at least 17 arrests Wednesday night and Thursday morning, most of which took place in hotels in Baton Rouge or just outside the city limits.
An FBI spokeswoman declined comment, and representatives of the Baton Rouge Police Department and the Sheriff’s Office said they were not authorized to comment because it was an FBI-led initiative.
It was unclear whether the sting resulted in the recovery of any minors ensnared by the sex trafficking trade. However, police did arrest a Baker man accused of pimping out a girl younger than 18.
Derrick Granger, 33, 3635 McVea St., Baker, was booked into East Baton Rouge Parish Prison on counts of promoting prostitution and possession of synthetic marijuana, booking records show.
Granger told police he was dating the girl. He also told them he knew she was a prostitute but “it has nothing to do with him,” according to an affidavit of probable cause.
The stings generally went down in a similar fashion, according to affidavits of probable cause for the men and women arrested.
Undercover detectives reached out to prostitutes through advertisements posted on backpage.com — an online classified ad website commonly used by law enforcement agents to arrange prostitution stings. The detectives met mostly women in hotel rooms and, soon after a price was agreed upon and payment was made, detectives gave a secret signal notifying awaiting officers to come in the room and arrest the prostitute — who often was fully or mostly disrobed.
Amounts paid by the undercover detectives varied widely, ranging from $50 to $700.
Several women asked the detectives whether they were police officers. Every time, detectives denied being such, according to the probable cause affidavits.
In some cases, according to the arrest documents, the women undressed the detectives or fondled them while in hotel rooms.
In addition to Granger’s arrest, the sting resulted in the arrest of 14 women — ages 20 to 43 — on prostitution counts. Two men also were arrested on counts of soliciting prostitutes, booking records show.
Follow Ben Wallace on Twitter, @_BenWallace.