76 arrested in Knox Co. for promoting or soliciting sex online

76 arrested in Knox Co. for promoting or soliciting sex online

Posted:
Backpage.com has an adult section listing ads for everything from escorts to body rubs and strippers. Backpage.com has an adult section listing ads for everything from escorts to body rubs and strippers.

By STEPHANIE BEECKEN
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The Knox County Sheriff's Department is cracking down on people using a website to advertise and solicit sex.

Since October, sheriff's investigators have arrested 76 people in connection to prostitution online. This is not the first time the website Backpage.com has been in the news.

The site has an adult section listing ads for everything from escorts to body rubs and strippers.

Law enforcement agencies from across the country have conducted stings arresting many people for promoting or patronizing prostitution on the site.

Over the past few months, dozens of people have been arrested in Knox County in connection to Backpage's adult section.

Since October, arrest after arrest has been made. In total, 76 people in Knox County have been arrested for promoting or trying to buy sex.

"This is an ongoing investigation and what we have been doing is responding to complaints about Backpage," said Knox County Sheriff's Department Spokesperson Martha Dooley.

Dooley says those arrested are of all ages and socioeconomic backgrounds. Some of those arrested are not directly using the site, but are the ones pushing to advertise the girls.

"We have arrested many pimps, too, the men who are behind these women who are promoting the prostitution. Also the women who do this are primarily drug addicts so these men are just basically feeding their habits," said Dooley.

The website contains photos and ads that make no pretense about what is being offered even though a disclaimer says any money exchanged is for companionship services only.

"It's pretty clear that it is prostitution," said Dooley.

Jason Boyd Wyatt, 34, was arrested Tuesday night charged with patronizing prostitution.

According to the arrest warrant Wyatt viewed the escort section on Backpage.com and made an appointment for a half hour of full service sex for the price of $140.

What Wyatt didn't know was that he wasn't talking to a prostitute, he was making the deal with a detective.

"When he arrived at the place, produced the money and said what he wanted, then he was arrested," said Dooley.

Wyatt is also facing criminal charges in an unrelated forgery case after he allegedly defrauded auto dealer West Side Honda, according to an indictment.

Dooley says the adult section on Backpage is being used for illegal activity, not limited to prostitution, because often those who are trying to buy sex become the victim.

"There's many times these men they are robbed themselves. They think they are going there for sex, instead some of them have been stabbed even shot and robbed of their car and their money," said Dooley.

Dooley says anytime they receive a complaint about the site they will investigate. In fact, they have trained detectives with the vice unit who monitor illegal online activity.

Backpage has been called the new Craigslist.

A couple years ago, Craigslist shut down its adult service section in the U.S. after attorneys general from 17 states said the company wasn't doing enough to stop prostitution.

Backpage has also been accused of promoting prostitution and child and human trafficking. The adult section remains.

The TBI says they have tried to get the adult ads off the site, but Backpage claims First Amendment rights and have been successful in court.

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