GILLETTE, Wyo.—The first buyer is 15 minutes away. He’s driving from South Dakota to Gillette to ostensibly have sex with a 16-year-old girl who advertised on a social media site.
What the buyer doesn’t realize is that he’s been corresponding with a police officer, who is waiting for him in a hotel room as part of a sex trafficking training and operation conducted by the Gillette police.
It’s Friday afternoon. The handful of officers have spent the past two days with Terri Markham, executive director of Uprising, a Sheridan nonprofit that provides training in human trafficking prevention. Leading the program is Joe Scaramucci, a detective with the McLennan County Sheriff’s Office in Texas. A renowned expert on human trafficking, he has trained hundreds of local, state and federal law enforcement agencies nationwide.
The buyer is here, Scaramucci announces from his desk in an adjoining hotel room. It’s the police officers’ cue to jump into action. They unload two suitcases of gear and strap on tactical vests, firearms and Tasers.
Meanwhile, the dozen people in the rooms – police, victim advocates and Markham’s crew – silently wait for the knock on the door. One officer stands with his hand on the door knob and his eye on the peep hole.
Minutes later, there’s a light knock. The police leap into the hallway and cuff a middle aged, white-haired man. As they lead him into the room, he bears an enigmatic smile, as if he’s in on a joke and not about to be arrested on a felony charge for soliciting sex from a minor.
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