Exclusive Fresno Online Prostitution Sting

FRESNO, Calif.

Officers say the women they arrested Tuesday night typically walk different beats on Fresno streets. But they all walk the same beat on the Internet, and Tuesday night, Action News saw them all arrive at the same hotel.

The 20-year-old woman walking into a Fresno hotel was about to get a big surprise. Minutes after walking in, she walked out in handcuffs and with a police escort. But she also left with a chance to straighten out her life.

"The last case we just made an arrest on is a prime target we like to go after," said Sgt. Curtis Chastain, who heads the Fresno police vice team. "It's the girls we want to try and rescue from this."

Vice officers lured the woman to the hotel based on ad they say she posted online. They say they're seeing dozens of these ads every day on pages like myredbook, backpage and Craig's List -- even after it instituted restrictions. The women who answer their calls and offer sex for money get cited for prostitution. But those aren't the only surprises coming from the online sex trade.

"The pictures we're seeing here, these in many cases are not the actual women who will appear at this hotel?" asked an Action News reporter.

"That's correct," an undercover officer answered. "You'll order somebody who looks young, attractive and you'll get somebody who doesn't fit what you ordered up."

An Action News camera was outside the hotel as two women answered the call from police. Officers say the first woman is a repeat offender. But the second suspected prostitute is a special case. Because she's only 20 and this is her first arrest, they offered to put her in a transitional living center, giving her the chance to change her life. So after she leaves this unmarked police car, the next move is hers.

"Hopefully she'll realize there's going to be consequences for her actions and she'll take us up on the help we can offer," Sgt. Chastain said.

Officers also targeted possible pimps Tuesday night, but they say the women would never name the men who drive them to the hotel as their pimps, so none of the men were arrested.

All of these women are only accused of these crimes and innocent until proven guilty.

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