21 arrested in human trafficking sting at 2 Fayette County hotels

Credit: Fayetteville Police Department

Credit: Fayetteville Police Department

A total of 21 people were arrested in a sting operation targeting human trafficking and forced prostitution at two hotels in Fayette County, officials said Tuesday.

Many of those arrested have been charged with prostitution, but investigators are working to determine whether they are actually victims, Fayetteville police Capt. Chad Myers said in a news conference.

The operation was carried out to identify victims of human trafficking and forced prostitution, as well as discourage such illegal activities, Fayetteville police said in a news release. The department was assisted by several law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Department of Homeland Security Investigations’ Human Trafficking and Child Exploitation Group, the Georgia State Patrol, the Fayette County Sheriff’s Office, the Peachtree City Police Department and the Coweta County Sheriff’s Office.

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The 21 people arrested face various charges, including prostitution, pimping, fraud, and drug-related counts, Myers said. Several suspects arrested at the Peachtree City hotel have been charged with possession of marijuana, methamphetamine, prescription medication and crack cocaine, according to a police statement.

“We are grateful to the hotel management, who cooperated with our agencies as we carried out the operation,” Fayetteville police Chief Scott Gray said. “We are all committed to the cause of ending human trafficking and keeping our community safe.”

According to Myers, who oversees the Fayetteville police criminal investigations division, investigators answered ads placed by the suspects and arranged meetings at the two hotels. After the suspects met with investigators and were taken into custody, they were interviewed at the scene by members of a victim advocate team to determine their individual circumstances.

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The interviews could lead to charges against other suspects who were not present at the hotels but may be forcing or coercing those arrested to work as prostitutes, Myers said. The evidence collected in those interviews will be turned over to the district attorney as they investigate each suspect. Myers said the evidence would allow the DA to decide, “Hey, if they’re a victim in this, we want to treat them appropriately.”

Nine people were arrested in Fayetteville, while 12 were arrested in Peachtree City, Myers said. Of those arrested, 17 were from Georgia and four were from other states: Arkansas, Florida, Texas and South Carolina. Though a majority of the suspects are from Georgia, none actually reside in Fayette County, according to the police departments.

None of the suspects were underage, police confirmed.

Myers said the investigations are ongoing and that operations had been cut short by the severe weather that battered North Georgia last week. The victim advocate team and investigators are continuing their work with the suspects this week, Myers said.

Anyone with information about human trafficking situations is asked to contact the National Human Trafficking Hotline by phone at 1-888-373-7888, text at 233733 or online via www.humantraffickinghotline.org/chat.