Man charged with promoting prostitution following FBI sting

Jerry Porter appears in Franklin County Superior Court Friday for a preliminary hearing after being arrested as an alleged pimp in an FBI sting at the Red Lion in Pasco.
Jerry Porter appears in Franklin County Superior Court Friday for a preliminary hearing after being arrested as an alleged pimp in an FBI sting at the Red Lion in Pasco. Sarah Gordon Tri-City Herald

A 27-year-old man is locked up on $250,000 bail after his arrest in Pasco as part of a nationwide human trafficking sting.

Franklin County prosecutors allege Jerry D. Porter is a pimp who housed three out-of-town prostitutes in a Kennewick motel while overseeing their arrangements with potential clients.

He was arrested last Thursday after dropping off a 23-year-old woman at a Pasco hotel and waiting outside for nearly 40 minutes, according to court documents.

In the meantime, the woman was under arrest inside the hotel, where she met with an undercover agent she believed to be a paying customer.
Porter was one of 11 people taken into custody across Washington during the weeklong Federal Bureau of Investigation effort, known as Operation Cross Country.

He was charged Tuesday in Franklin County Superior Court with one felony count of second-degree promoting prostitution.

This is the first time Pasco and Kennewick took part in the operation, which covered a total of 11 Washington cities, according to the FBI. Enforcement also was conducted throughout King, Kitsap and Pierce counties.

Overall, Washington’s two Child Exploitation Task Forces recovered three juveniles who had been sexually exploited and made contact with 119 adults who were being victimized through prostitution. Some of those adult victims had been forced into participating since they were minors, the FBI said in a news release.

Cash, drugs, a gun and several vehicles also were seized.

Nationwide, the operation was conducted in 135 cities, helped 149 child victims and resulted in more than 150 arrests. The youngest recovered victim was age 12.

The annual operation is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost National Initiative, and this year’s action was considered the largest such enforcement to date. The Innocence Lost program works to identify and recover sexually exploited children, and prosecute pimps and associates for trafficking crimes.

“Our mission is to protect the American people — especially our children — from harm,” FBI Director James Comey said in a bureau posting. “When kids are treated as a commodity in seedy hotels and on dark roadsides, we must rescue them from their nightmare and severely punish those responsible for that horror.”
“We simply must continue to work with our partners to end the scourge of sex trafficking in our country,” Comey added.

Federal agents partnered with local, state and federal law enforcement agencies, along with the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children, or NCMEC. More than 500 law enforcement officials targeted hotels, casinos, truck stops and other locations frequented by pimps, prostitutes and their customers.

Tri-City partners in the sting included the sheriff’s offices in Benton and Franklin counties, police in Kennewick, Pasco and Richland and prosecutors in both counties.

Victim specialists with the FBI were on scene during the stings to provide crisis intervention and resources for food, clothing, housing, medical attention, education assistance and job training.

“Victims and the pimps travel throughout Eastern and Western Washington to work and do not necessarily reside in the area where they were located (last) week,” said FBI spokeswoman Ayn Dietrich-Williams with the Seattle Field Office.

During Porter’s first appearance in Superior Court last Friday, Deputy Prosecutor Maureen Astley said Porter is from Georgia with few ties to the Mid-Columbia.

His criminal history includes a misdemeanor hit-and-run.

An undercover agent responded to a posting at 6:35 p.m. Thursday, according to an affidavit filed by Pasco Sgt. Jason Miller. The website is known for advertising escorts who are part of the sex trade business.

The agent arranged to meet the woman at a Pasco hotel and agreed upon $150 for an hour of “full service,” a term used for sex with an escort, Miller wrote.

The woman was supposed to be there at 7 p.m. but arrived an hour late.

Once inside the hotel room, the woman tried to prove the undercover agent was not law enforcement by exposing her breast and asking to be touched, court documents said. At that point, the agent gave the arrest signal and she was taken into custody by a team waiting nearby.

The woman told investigators she had traveled from Portland to do temporary work in the Tri-Cities as a prostitute, documents said. She had $600 cash and multiple condoms on her.

The woman claimed she was staying at a Kennewick motel with two other prostitutes, and said she was dropped at the hotel by a man known as “J” and she was supposed to take a taxi back once done.

Meanwhile, other officers were watching as Porter dropped the woman at the front entrance and parked in the main lot for about 15 to 20 minutes, court documents said. He then got out of the SUV and sat outside the hotel’s front doors for another 15 to 20 minutes.

Porter was trying to drive away when he was stopped by a patrol car.

Officer Nathan Carlisle asked Porter why he was at the hotel and he claimed he was visiting a friend, “even though he never entered the hotel or contacted anyone,” Miller wrote.

Porter was taken to another hotel room to meet with Franklin County Detective Lee Barrow. He told the investigator he had driven the woman from the Kennewick motel and that she only was supposed to run in and get something from another person.

Porter did not have any identification on him at the time of his arrest, but he was carrying two key cards for the Kennewick motel.

“Both obviously were lying to investigators and trying to provide plausible cover stories for one another. Unfortunately, their statements did not come close to matching,” Miller said in court documents.

It is common practice for prostitutes to be driven around by their “employer” when meeting with clients, and for the employer to provide lodging if traveling out of town, Miller said.

Porter had been waiting for the woman to finish her business and maintained control of the key cards, then “when confronted in the act of doing this, gave no reasonable explanation to his action, and in fact lied to disguise his purpose,” Miller wrote.

Porter is scheduled to return to court Oct. 20 to enter a plea to the new charge.
The woman is held on $5,000 bail on allegations of prostitution solicitation. Her case is being handled in Pasco Municipal Court, according to Prosecutor Shawn Sant.

Attorney General Loretta Lynch called human trafficking “a monstrous and devastating crime that steals lives and degrades our nation.”

Lynch said because of the exemplary efforts of law enforcement during Operation Cross Country, “more children will sleep safely tonight, and more wrongdoers will face the judgment of our criminal justice system.”

EDITORS NOTE: "The girl was holding $600. on her person and multiple condoms". That is not slavery or human trafficking, slaves don't need cash or get to hold onto it.

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