A series of arrests in a drug operation has led local authorities to make some unprecedented apprehensions for other crimes.
The Effingham County Sheriff’s Office and the Rincon Police Department conducted a prostitution sting at the Rincon Days Inn on Tuesday night, arresting eight people on a variety of charges.
"We’ve been getting complaints about prostitution going on, in conjunction with some drug busts we had last week," said Effingham Sheriff Jimmy McDuffie.
As a result of the recent drug busts, investigators took into their possession cell phones. The investigators began receiving text messages on those confiscated phones, McDuffie said, so they set up the sting operation.
"What they said was happening, was happening," he said. "We set up at a local motel and these folks wanted to turn themselves in."
Investigators made contact with either the pimp or the prostitute. According to authorities, the suspect would then offer services for a designated amount of money or for drugs and arrange for a meeting.
"The officers communicating with these folks were pretty explicit in what they wanted to do in exchange for drugs and/or money," the sheriff said. "The investigators answered those texts."
After conferring with the Ogeechee Judicial Circuit District Attorney’s office, it was determined the text messages were explicit enough to warrant an arrest.
Rincon Police Chief Mike Bohannon said the cooperation between law enforcement led to the arrests.
"It was a joint investigation," he said. "The two agencies working together and being proactive is a reason it came to a successful conclusion."
Bohannon said one of the suspects had a sawed-off 20-gauge shotgun.
"We felt it was his intent to rob whoever was in that room," McDuffie said. "Had we not been doing what we’re doing, there could have been another victim."
Added Bohannon: "It could have escalated."
William Brown, 27, of Jasper, Florida, Jasmyne Miller, 19, of Valdosta, and Lakeith Hudson, 25, of Jacksonville were all arrested and charged with pimping and pandering.
Donna Doe, 25, of Savannah, Amanda Day, 18, of Cary, N.C., and Ashley Carter, 23, of Jacksonville, Fla., were all charged with prostitution.
Deputies also arrested Michael Pierre, 35, of Garden City who was charged with pimping, pandering, possession of a firearm during the commission of a crime and possession of a firearm by a convicted felon. Pierre has an extensive criminal history including robbery and assault with a deadly weapon, according to authorities.
Also, one of those arrested also is HIV-positive, according to McDuffie.
McDuffie also said many of those who are getting illicit prescription drugs are going to Jacksonville, getting a legal prescription, and then getting them filled in Effingham County.
"A lot of those drugstores are in Rincon, and that’s why we’re working so close with the Rincon Police Department," he said.
McDuffie also said prostitution is not a victimless crime and noted that a majority of these individuals have extensive criminal histories and some are repeat offenders.
"Somebody’s got to be initiating it. Is the victim the one requesting the service or the person giving the services?" he said. "One of the individuals we arrested last night has HIV. There are victims in every crime and in this case, it could be worse than normal."
The prostitution ring may be limited to the one occurrence and further arrests likely won’t happen.
"We don’t believe it’s been an ongoing thing," McDuffie said. "I think it’s limited in its scope."
Both Bohannon and McDuffie expressed surprise that a prostitution ring was active in Effingham County and Rincon, if only briefly.
"Every day seems to bring a new challenge," the sheriff said. "We’ve got to step up and meet those challenges as they come up."