In February, the Lake County Sheriff’s Gang Task Force went undercover, arresting 14 men in a continued national campaign to suppress the demand for purchased sex.
The Lake County Sheriff’s Gang Task Force joined a coalition of federal and local law enforcement agencies in a nationwide operation which specifically targeted customers of prostitutes known as “Johns.”
The 17th National Johns Suppression Initiative (NJSI) spanned 14 states and included law enforcement posting decoy ads on more than a dozen trafficking-related websites. Those ads led to artificial intelligence (AI) bots to deter johns and, in many cases, to police officers who made an arrest.
More than 390 individuals were arrested nationwide by two dozen police agencies across the country as part of an operation to deter johns and interrupt the online havens of sex trafficking, according to Cook County Sheriff Thomas J. Dart.
Cook County Sheriff’s Office were involved with 38 johns that were arrested; 1 indecent solicitation of a minor. Buyer arrests include joint operations with the Lansing Police Department where 7 johns arrested, Matteson Police Department where 8 johns were arrested, and Orland Hills Police Department where 7 johns were arrested.
Rockford Police Department also conducted their own NJSI operation. Law enforcement agencies in 13 other states also participated in NJSI, which ran from Jan. 13 through Feb. 3, 2019. Nationwide, at least 372 sex buyers were arrested, including 21 charged with soliciting a minor, and 23 individuals face charges related to trafficking. Thirty-five individuals, including eight minors, were recovered and offered services. More than two-thirds of the arrests were related to internet ads. Again, law enforcement agencies in Cook County recorded a total of 38 sex buyer arrests. The numbers may increase with additional law enforcement agencies reporting.
The NJSI operation utilized classified advertising websites that are regularly used as a medium for prostitution. In Lake County, when the “Johns” arrived and offered money to the undercover detectives for sexual acts, they were arrested and transported to the Lake County Jail.
The AI bot, created by childsafe.ai, interacts with johns seeking sex and eventually sends a deterrence message warning of the legal and social dangers of buying sex. Seven agencies utilized the bot, cumulatively engaging 1,477 potential sex buyers with a total of nearly 8,500 total messages sent. Sheriff’s Police continue to monitor websites containing sex solicitation ads and buyers are on notice that any of those ads could lead buyers to arrest.
One individual was arrested by Cook County Sheriff’s Police after he was determined to be a high-frequency sex buyer. The individual sent more than 350 text messages and placed nine phone calls to bot phone numbers.
Cook County Sheriff Dart started NJSI in 2011 to draw national attention to the role sex buyers play in fueling sex trafficking. Since 2011, Cook County Sheriff’s Police and more than 130 participating law enforcement agencies have arrested more than 9,000 johns and sex traffickers.
Lake County Sheriff John Idleburg said, “There is no doubt a correlation between ‘Johns’ and women being sex trafficked. Sex traffickers take women and juveniles to areas where purchased sexual acts are in high-demand, and northeastern Illinois is no exception. Our Gang Task Force will do everything they can to rescue and protect those being forced into involuntary servitude.”
The following suspects were arrested in the 4100 block of Fountain Square Place, Waukegan:
Martin Barajas, 43, of Kenosha
Roberto Lazcon, 29, of North Chicago
Ricardo Sanchez-Angel, 44, of Mundelein
Cristobal Paniagua Ferreira, 33, of Zion
Matthew Weigl, 49, of Pleasant Prairie, WI
Daniel Jones, 26, of Lindenhurst
REDACTED, 42, of REDACTED IL
Juan Galan, 42, of Waukegan IL
Leslie Horton, 47, of Grayslake IL
Austin Lind, 31, of Zion IL
Robert Prager, 57, of Lake Bluff
Jackie Joyner, 67, of McHenry
Kyle Brenner, 27, of Wadsworth
Rajasekar Chinnathambi-Somanathan, 39, of Waukegan
All of the above individuals in Lake County were charged with Solicitation of a Sexual Act (Class A Misdemeanor) and have a return court date of February 25, 2019, at 9:00AM in Courtroom C-401
Lake County Sheriff Idleburg reminds the community all defendants are presumed innocent unless proven guilty in a court of law.
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