FBI, local law enforcement carry out prostitution sting in Everett

Oct 13, 2015, 9:37 AM | Updated: Oct 14, 2015, 11:28 am

This is part of an ongoing series centered around sexual slavery in Snohomish County.

The FBI and Snohomish County law enforcement carried out a special operation from an Everett hotel last week in order to gain intelligence on the sex trade. Though no arrests were made the FBI considers the operation a success.

The FBI provided exclusive information to KIRO Radio about the operation, which was carried out on Oct. 6-7.

The operation took place in an Everett hotel, where law enforcement engaged in “out-calls.” This is where the undercover officers respond to an online add for sex and have the prostitute come to the hotel.

Related: Former prostitute says ‘nothing worse’ than Snohomish County

“A successful operation entails giving, whether it be juveniles or adults, the opportunity to get out of the situation they’re in. Maybe through services. At least get the wheels turning in their mind that maybe there’s another way to live and then just going home safe at the end of the night,” Everett Detective Aaron DeFolo said.

Det. DeFolo was joined by FBI Special Agents Steve Vienneau and Sara Blond as well as law enforcement from seven other agencies in and around Snohomish County. While they carried out their operation in Everett last week, other teams carried out operations across the country. The FBI announced the results of the nationwide effort Wednesday.

During the Everett operation, officers made contact with six women engaging in prostitution and one driver who delivered the women to the hotel. No pimps were spotted during their efforts.

Related: Finding answers to Snohomish County’s sexual slavery problem

They have to be careful, too, because social media can quickly foil their plans.

“You interview these girls and they go out on the street and post on a message board or text everybody else ‘hey don’t come here the cops are here tonight’ that’ll get posted to a message board and that’s it, you’re done,” Special Agent Blond said.

This was not the case last week, but certainly part of the reality of an operation. Some may ask: Why wouldn’t the girl rat on police and not accept their offer to escape? DeFolo, Vienneau and Blond all agreed that this happens because these women have been brainwashed into believing that law enforcement will arrest them. They might also be under the violent control of a pimp who has beaten them and has also threatened their families if the girls leave.

Related: FBI says no easy answers on sexual slavery issue in Snohomish County

Sometimes, the agents will spend months contacting the female before she trusts them and accepts their help.

“We can have interaction with someone where hopefully we plant a seed and often times you have to come back and water it a bunch of times before that thing sprouts and takes roots so often it takes multiple contacts,” Special Agent Vienneau said.

Once the FBI gains the trust of the women, they spend the weekend interviewing them and gathering intelligence about the commercial sex trade in Snohomish County and other crimes. The FBI said it was able to gain intelligence about a violent crime ring in Snohomish County that they plan to pursue. While the FBI could not provide specifics about the intelligence, they said these types of violent crimes often involve gangs.

With no arrests and six women contacted, the operation failed to reach the kind of FBI special operations we’re used to seeing in movies. But this is real life and Special Agent Vienneau explained it like this: special operations are about casting a wide net, collecting the intelligence and connecting the dots on the commercial sex trade in Snohomish County. It’s one tool &#8212 not the tool.

“When we are able to certainly recover someone who is involved in sex trafficking and get them removed from that situation and get them resources and help. Additionally, anything we can do to build cases on those who would exploit them. Certainly locking someone up who needs to be locked up,” Vienneau said.

Agent Vienneau been doing this for more than a decade and has seen it all. During operations, he’ll personally return juveniles to their homes if home is still a safe place.

“I’ve worked with kids who come from families that are healthy families and you have a child who went through a period of rebellion and part of that rebellion resulted in decisions that landed them in a situation that they got trapped in. And then there’s other families where the child is not looked after so closely,” Vienneau said.

Those are sad cases and he remembers one specifically.

“I was pretending I was going to buy, I wanted to buy sex, and I called this person and I knew who it was and it knew she was underage and yeah I went to her residence where her mother was home.”

These are the children the FBI are trying to protect and while the progress might be slow and doesn’t offer neat and hopeful statistics about declining sexual slavery in Snohomish County, the FBI and other law enforcement agencies have to count their successes in the individual women they have steered toward recovery.

This is also why Detective DeFolo is part of a Snohomish County group trying to open an Everett recovery center for victims of sexual slavery.

“One of the reasons we started the Peoria Home was because we’re finding that there are places for juveniles to go, because we have to put them &#8212 they have to go somewhere &#8212 but not for the adult women who want to get out of this lifestyle,” DeFolo said.

Peoria Home is hosting a dance and social on Oct. 17 to raise money.

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