The Council Bluffs Police Department, with help from other local and national law enforcement organizations, has arrested and charged 10 people with prostitution.
Undercover officers with the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force allegedly caught five men attempting to solicit sex and five women offering sex for money. The charge is the same for either offense in Iowa.
Arrested for soliciting sex were Kevin D. Bewley, 44, of Bellevue, Nebraska; Carlos Galindo-Morales, 19, of Omaha; Kai Ming, 51, of Omaha; William Pond, 29, of Papillion, Nebraska and Orifzhon Sobirov, 29, of Omaha, according to police reports.
Arrested for offering sex for money were Miranda Jo Cieloha, 35, of Omaha; Ashley K. Hartman-Larry, 24, of Omaha; Dawnisha O. Leroy, 21, of Omaha; and Haley Sowders, 23, of Omaha, according to reports. A fifth woman, Jaimie Begrin, 21, of Omaha, was cited for prostitution at the scene, but, unlike the other nine suspects, was not taken into custody at Pottawattamie County Jail.
All but Leroy have been released from Pottawattamie County Jail. Leroy has a warrant from Polk County. The standard bond for suspicion of prostitution is $2,000.
The arrests were part of a nationwide human trafficking operation spearheaded by the FBI, titled Operation Cross Country IX. Nationally, 149 underage trafficking victims were recovered, and 153 alleged pimps were arrested.
Council Bluffs police Sgt. Robert Christensen said none of the Council Bluffs arrests involved underage prostitutes or pimps. While no arrests were made in Council Bluffs involving minors, Christensen said investigators have seen online ads for young prostitutes.
“A lot of posts out there don’t show actual pictures of the (prostitute). They show younger kids,” he said. “We’re going to keep looking for the younger ones.”
Christensen is part of the Southwest Iowa Narcotics Task Force. Along with the arrests for prostitution, there were also several arrests involving drugs as part of the operation, he said.
None of last Wednesday’s arrests included Pottawattamie County residents.
“There’s no rhyme or reason behind that,” Christensen said. “There could be a lot of reasons why we didn’t find any Council Bluffs residents. It could have been the locations or the time of day. We would like to think that people aren’t doing it because they know we’re out there looking for them.”
Along with spearheading the local sting on Oct. 7, the Council Bluffs Police Department also helped with sting operations in La Vista and Omaha last week. In the metro area, 11 additional arrests were made. Authorities also found two underage victims and three pimps.
According to a release, nationally, the youngest victim in this year’s operation was 12. Of the 149 victims recovered, three of those minors are transgender and three are male.
During the operation, 90 victim specialists provided on-scene direct services to the victims of sex trafficking, while 105 child victims received on-site direct services, which may have included crisis intervention and resources for basic needs like medical, food, clothing and shelter.
Because of the size of the operation, FBI victim specialists coordinated with local law enforcement victim advocates and non-governmental organizations that provided additional support to the victims.
Operation Cross Country IX was the largest in the nine-year history of the initiative, with 53 FBI field offices and 73 child exploitation task forces, which include federal, state and local law enforcement agencies taking part in the operation in 135 cities across the U.S., including the Council Bluffs-Omaha metro area.
Nationwide, more than 500 law enforcement officials, including investigators and officers from federal, state and local law enforcement organizations, conducted both “in-call” and “out-call” operations in hotels, casinos, truck stops and other areas known to be frequented by prostitutes, sex-traffickers and their customers.
Operation Cross Country is part of the FBI’s Innocence Lost national initiative, which began in 2003. Since the program’s inception, more than 4,800 children have been recovered from underage prostitution, and prosecutors have obtained more than 2,000 convictions, including at least 15 that have resulted in life sentences.