Backpage Consumers Beware: Police are regularly conducting Backpage Stings

Cindy Castillo Sex Crime, Arizona Law, AZ Events

Update Feb 2017: Backpage.com shut down their adult only classified pages on their site, due to government pressure for allegedly facilitating and encouraging sex trafficking. There is still a potential that police are running similar stings on other websites. Read more here.

As the 2015 Super Bowl nears, Phoenix and its surrounding valley cities are being swept by police sex sting operations to send a message that prostitution and child prostitution will not be tolerated in the valley.

Common prey for these sex sting operations are those individuals who visit a popular website known as Backpage.com and are known as backpage stings. Some of the ads on this website are posted by law enforcement agencies hoping to catch individuals who are looking to receive sexual services or individuals who are providing sexual services. The main target for these law enforcement agencies are those consumers seeking to obtain sexual services from underage women; however, even those consumers who are not seeking underage women nor have any intention of being with an underage woman can still fall prey to the operation.

These ads purport to be posted by fully consenting adults, 18 years and older. However, once the initial communication is made, the communication becomes a ploy for the law enforcement decoy/service provider attempting to catch solicitors of prostitutes as well as child predators.

The most popular ploy used by these law enforcement decoys is to provide notice of the decoy’s age through the following scenario: The decoy officer asks the customer to either pick up some smokes or beer because there is a problem with the decoy’s fake id. She will then tell the customer her alleged age of almost 17; ask the customer if he is okay with that; and then immediately turn the conversation to asking what the customer wants. The customer is then focused on the service and not on the age of the decoy. Other customers believe the decoy stating that she is underage is part of the fantasy experience. In some scenarios, customers are also enticed with not just one decoy but two for the same price or for just a little more money. When the customer asks where the decoy is located or the room number, the decoy then states that because she is not of age that someone else is renting the room, and she will tell the customer once he gets closer to the agreed upon location.

Once the customer arrives at the location, the room is completely bugged with audio and video equipment. The decoy will attempt to get the customer to state again on video what he or she is looking for with specificity and also again try to get the customer to state that they are okay with the fact the service provider is under the age of 18.

Although this scenario sounds much like an entrapment especially on the issue of soliciting an underage prostitute or two, those who have fallen prey to these sting operations cannot afford to challenge the legality of the entrapment because of the prison exposure they face after trial if unsuccessful. If an individual is charged with child prostitution, and he/she chooses to go to trial and loses, the minimum he/she could face is 7 years in prison. If the individual is charged with two counts, and convicted of both counts, the prison time for the second count must be consecutive to the first count. If an individual is charged with simple prostitution, and has no prior offenses for prostitution, the minimum he/she could face is 15 days of jail if convicted at trial.

Currently, the offers to settle the Child Prostitution offenses short of going to trial usually requires some amount of jail time; either a felony conviction or a conviction involving children; and sex terms with lengthy probation.

The offers to settle the Simple Prostitution offenses can vary between a diversion program (completing a class) to pleading guilty to the offense as charged and receiving no less than 15 days in jail.

The best way to avoid being in this situation is to not take part in this activity; stay away from these backpage ads that involve illegal activity; or any ads that just seem too good to be true as they probably are too good to be true.

If you or someone you know is involved in an incident like this, feel free to contact me. I provide free consultations.