Nassau County authorities conducted a month-long undercover sting operation that resulted in the arrest of 104 men on charges of soliciting a prostitute.
Police placed bogus ads in the website Backpage.com, offering to arrange meetings with undercover police officers posing as prostitutes, the Nassau District Attorney's office said.
“Sex workers are often vulnerable victims of traffickers and pimps, yet they too often remain the prime targets in prostitution investigations while the johns who fuel the exploitation are treated as mere witnesses,” said Nassau County District Attorney Kathleen Rice. “My office and the police department are turning the tables on the illogical and immoral nature of that equation.”
Dubbed "Operation Flush the Johns," the online ads led the prospective johns to various hotel rooms where visual and audio footage of each meeting was captured by hidden cameras. When the offer of money for sex was made, the suspects were arrested, authorities said.
The D.A.s office said the men arrested include "doctors, lawyers, bankers, teachers, and other professionals."
The defendants have all pleaded not guilty to third-degree patronizing a prostitute, a misdemeanor under the state penal code. It is punishable by up to one year in a county jail, but few if any will receive more than fines, legal experts said.
The arrests took place between April 18 and May 24 and mark an expansion of police enforcement which has traditionally targeted prostitutes, the D.A. office said. In the last 10 years, fewer than 40 johns have been arrested by police.
"...We know that the commission of this specific crime is dramatically affected by the perceived risk of getting caught,” said Rice. “We are giving fair warning to johns that the risk is growing rapidly.”