Police use craigslist to catch prostitutes - KWWL - Eastern Iowa Breaking News, Weather, Closings

Police use craigslist to catch prostitutes

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by Bryan Goettel

IOWA CITY (KWWL) - Three young women face prostitution charges after a sting in Iowa City, and police say that's just the tip of the iceberg.

After viewing online ads, Iowa City police say undercover officers met 21-year-old Heather Brown, 20-year-old Kathleen McFadden and 26-year-old Lisa Nolker, all of Illinois, at a local hotel.

47-year-old Samuel Scott, of Davenport, was arrested and charged with pimping after police say he drove girls to appointments and collected the money.

To find these four, police used the website craigslist. Craigslist has received some unwanted publicity recently thanks to the alleged "craigslist killer", a Boston University medical student accused of murdering a masseuse he met on craigslist. Here in Iowa, six law enforcement agencies across the state worked together on this latest prostitution bust.

You can find the craigslist ads under the erotic section on the website. In most cases, the objective appears abundantly clear.

"I think that it exists primarily for the purpose of furthering what is criminal enterprise in the state of Iowa," said Iowa City Police Sergeant Troy Kelsay. 

"I'd rather see a lot of that stuff or some of that stuff removed," said Johnson County Sheriff Lonny Pulkrabek. "It just probably doesn't belong there."

Pulkrabek describes craigslist as a legitimate website. He just doesn't see a place for an erotic section.

"It seems like it has that bad side or it gives people the tool to use in a not so great way," said Pulkrabek.

A disclaimer as you click on the erotic category does remind people that illegal activity will be reported to the law. Just the kind of activity Iowa City police discovered on craigslist in February.

"When those women were checked back on craigslist, because that's where this contact was made, those women were found to have listings on craigslist," said Kelsay. 

Both Kelsay and Pulkrabek say more charges are likely coming. But they're hopeful the recent arrests coupled with news of the alleged "craigslist killer" will make both sides think twice.

"I think that you will see more caution exercised by both clients and providers," said Kelsay.

Both Kelsay and Pulkrabek told me they don't put the blame on craigslist. They say if not craigslist, prostitutes will just find another forum. KWWL attempted to contact someone at craigslist. But our e--mail request for an interview was not returned.

Online Reporter: Bryan Goettel

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