Tualatin police conduct prostitution sting
Hillsboro, Beaverton and now Tualatin have all conducted prostitution stings within the last couple of months
One week ago a group of three young women made $1,000 for wrestling on the floor in the home of a Portland lawyer. It was good money, and they knew it.
The girls were proud of it. And they bragged about it even as they sat in a Motel 6 hotel room in Tualatin with their hands bound behind their backs.
Tualatin police arrested five women last Thursday during a prostitution sting that focused on online sex ads. With the help of management at Motel 6, which donated the use of three rooms for the sting, nine Tualatin police officers worked for about nine hours on the operation.
Sgt. Royanne Mathiesen, of the Tualatin Police Department's Community Response Unit, called the sting 'good training.'
Prostitution is described as a gateway crime for women. And while at least three local police departments have conducted prostitution stings in the last couple months, no major problem seems to have stirred up the attention.
'But (prostitution) is always there,' Mathiesen said.
The four girls had arrived at the Tualatin motel expecting to meet two construction workers who wanted a night of sex. Instead the girls met a group of Tualatin police officers equipped with sidearms and white flexicuffs that dangled from velcroed bulletproof vests.
After officers stormed into room 210, the girls - Sasha Williams, 19, of Portland; Arielle N. Streber, 18; Krystle D. Haga, 21; and Tawny Badder, 19 - couldn't believe what they saw as they were ushered one by one into room 211.
The room housed a command center with a television showing the feed from a hidden camera in the other room, a listening tap device and computer lap tops opened to the girls' Internet listings and to the paperwork the police officers would need to fill out in order to arrest all four of them on charges of prostitution, a class A misdemeanor.
'Being the person I am, I should have known,' said Haga as she leaned back in her chair, her hands still securely locked behind her back. 'This is the first time we didn't ask if they were law enforcement… I should have known he was too happy.'
Tualatin was the third local police department to recently conduct an Internet prostitution sting. Hillsboro and Beaverton police departments have also conducted their own busts. Tualatin officers with the Community Response Unit sat in on Hillsboro's sting about three weeks ago.
Tualatin CRU officer Mark Louka said he couldn't believe how rampant and how far reaching prostitution advertised online is.
'We just want people to know this isn't sleepy little Tualatin,' said Mathiesen. 'Things are happening, and we're just bringing it out (into the open).'
Mathiesen added that Tualatin has a lot of criminal activity happening in hotels, 'but (the police) are working on that.'
As officers in the sting room watched the four girls on the monitor Thursday night, Mathiesen was the first to let out a gasp as she pointed at the screen.
Badder, who crowded into the tiny hotel room when the 'Johns' opened the door, was pregnant. Her rounded belly was clearly visible as she walked into the room in a pair of shorts and a heavy jacket. She later told police she didn't know how far along in her pregnancy she was.
'(Prostitution) isn't what we want to do forever,' said Haga as she mentioned the girls' dream of owning an all-girls auto shop.
Speaking with street slang and aggressively shifting her body weight, Haga carried herself as the leader of the group, though she denied being the girls' madam. She did admit to taking the pictures of the girls that were placed on the Internet ads. She also carried around in her pocket the digital camera she had used to take the pictures. The pictures were still on the memory card when she was arrested.
'Some people,' Haga said, 'are forced to do this.'
Mathiesen was the first to notice the staples in Haga's head, which were slightly hidden beneath her styled hair.
A 'John' in Kennewick, Wash., had taken Haga in his car. They were just supposed to drive around the corner to find some privacy. Instead the John drove her a few blocks away and then beat her.
Haga's boyfriend, Michael S. Jones of Toledo, Wash., who drove the girls to Motel 6 Thursday and waited in the car, told Mathiesen that Haga almost died after the attack.
'Why are you still doing this then?' Mathiesen asked.
Haga shrugged her shoulders. 'That's why I have my boyfriend with me.'
Jones was not cited in connection with Thursday's prostitution sting, but he was cited and released for a failure to appear on a warrant out of Multnomah County.
Using some profanity and heavy sighs, Haga made known she was not happy to be arrested. She also repeatedly mentioned her 16-month-old baby who she said had a heart condition.
'What am I supposed to do about my daughter?' Haga repeatedly asked as officers confirmed that she and her friends would be taken to the Washington County Jail in Hillsboro.
The other girls seemed accepting of their fates. Police asked Badder for her ID when her name did not come up with any results on the computer. She said she had none; a pimp had stolen her ID.
Streber had the same problem with her name not appearing on record. She told police, though, that she could prove her name since she had two pieces of jewelry with her first name 'Arielle' spelled on it.
Williams and Raylene Cromb, who was the first woman arrested during Thursday's sting, were both on probation for drug convictions. Despite having a purse full of condoms and being caught on tape setting a price for sexual favors, Cromb, 23, of Gresham, denied that she came to the room to do anything more than dance.
Cromb showed up to the hotel in a brand new Cadillac CTS. She was driving with a suspended license, and so police also had her car towed after searching it. Police seized $648 from under a floor mat in the car.
'It's a way of life and a business for them. They make an awful lot of money that they don't pay taxes on. It's a way of survival,' Mathiesen said.
Haga noted that she'd have to choose between prostitution and her daughter. And while still bound by the flexicuffs and surrounded by uniformed cops, Haga said she'd choose her daughter.
'I can't go to jail,' she said.
But when officers asked if the money was too good to leave, the girls said nothing.
'I don't care what type of crime it is, we're not going to stop the behavior,' Mathiesen said. 'One girl told me 'It's the cost of doing business.' (Getting arrested) doesn't stop what they're doing.'