Crime

Merced police went online to make contact with suspects in sex sting. And it worked

Police lights.
Police lights.

Authorities arrested 20 people in an undercover operation in connection with an investigation into human trafficking and prostitution in Merced, police said.

Merced police participated in a statewide operation targeting human trafficking and prostitution called “Reclaim and Rebuild” from Jan. 24 to Jan. 26, according to a news release.

The Merced Police Department DART Team along with GVSU officers conducted undercover operations responding to and posting online advertisements on known commercial sex websites, according to authorities.

When officers were contacted through numbers posted online, they negotiated sex acts for money and arrested subjects who arrived to engage in acts of prostitution.

Merced Police Sgt. Robert Solis said all of the arrests were made at locations in the City of Merced.

Police said of the 20 people arrested during the operation, ten men and eight women were arrested on suspicion of solicitation of prostitution. Two men were arrested on suspicion of pimping and supervision of prostitution with one of the men being charged with human trafficking of a minor under the age of 18, according to the news release.

Authorities said 30-year-old Billy Fountain was arrested and charged with suspicion of pimping and supervision of a prostitute. A 17-year-old male juvenile was also arrested and charged with human trafficking of a minor under the age of 18.

Police said they were able to locate the rescued juvenile’s grandmother and obtain an emergency protective order. The juvenile was reunited with the grandmother, according to the news release.

Merced Police ask anyone with information regarding these cases to contact Sgt. Solis at 209-385-4703 or the Merced Police Department Tipster Line at 209-385-4725. The public can send information via anonymous text message to the police department by dialing “TIP411” (846411) and include the word “Comvip” as the “keyword” in the text message.

To view mugshots visit mercedsunstar.com

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