DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — Seven men are behind bars after investigators say they fell for a sex crime ruse, where agents posted an online ad posing as a 14-year-old girl, who wanted to meet up to perform illegal sex acts for money.
Law enforcement arrested the following men:
- Jakhari Martin, 28 of Dothan
- Jazzmund Cunningham, 26 of Slocomb
- Wilmer Ponce-Gomez, 26 of Ozark
- Brandon Mitchell, 38 of Arlington, Georgia; registered sex offender
- Vidal Guice, 28 of Troy
- Pierre Dyck, 41 of Dothan
- Jameson Lopez-Chanchavac, 21 of Thomasville, Georgia
All seven men were charged with human trafficking in the first degree, electronic solicitation of a child by a computer device and traveling to meet a child for sex.
They were arrested during Operation: Back to School, an operation designed to catch child sexual predators as the agencies have seen an uptick in 14-to-15-year-old juveniles either become victims of illegal sex acts or are trying to solicit themselves.
“This operation was designed to go after those who solicit that certain age group of people and it happens in our own backyard,” Houston County Special Investigator over Sex Crimes, Chris Summerlin said. “This is evident that this happens in the city limits of Dothan.”
The operation was run last Thursday and Friday in Circle City. Undercover agents, who specialize in child sex crimes, portrayed a 14-year-old girl performing what investigators are calling a ruse to catch the alleged predators. They posted an ad on a social media platform, but they did not specify what the platform may have been.
Officials say during the 2-day operation they had about 100 people chatting with children who were 14 to 15 years old of age, but the 7 behind bars answered their ad of the 14-year-old girl.
“It’s quite evident by these seven arrests that these individuals knowing that they or thought they were meeting a 14-year-old for illegal sex actuals chose to do so,” Houston County Sheriff’s Office, Major Bill Rafferty said.
If convicted of these crimes, all seven men could face considerable time behind bars, but a lot of the time the suspects in these cases plea to lower a sentence.
“The ads were answered with the knowledge that they were coming to meet a 14-year-old female; they traveled to meet a 14-year-old female to have sex with for money,” Summerlin said.
Investigators said that there is case law that is yet to be determined in these types of cases when it involves some sort of a ruse like in this case.