Customers looking for more than holiday gifts in Richland Co. pr - wistv.com - Columbia, South Carolina |

Customers looking for more than holiday gifts in Richland Co. prostitution sting

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Sheriff's detectives monitor prostitution sting Sheriff's detectives monitor prostitution sting
RICHLAND COUNTY, SC (WIS) -

He went shopping for what he thought would be a holiday treat. But all he and at least eight others ended up with was a trip to jail.

It began when the suspects answered a sex ad posted on web site called backpage.com.  They thought a young woman calling herself Jasmine placed the ad, seeking generous and sincere men to "fill her stocking."     

It was all part of a prostitution sting set up by the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

"This is the new way to advertise prostitution," said Sheriff Leon Lott. "20 years ago they'd be standing on the side of the road on Two Notch Rd. Today it's done online."

Over the last two days, a female deputy working out of a motel room near Two Notch Rd. greeted customer after customer after they contacted her by phone.

In the next room, a group of undercover deputies watched on video monitors and waited for the men to negotiate a price. When that happened, they pounced.

Among those arrested, a 28-year-old Army sergeant in uniform, married, with kids. Investigators say he offered to pay $50 for sex.

A short time after that, two more men showed up.

One was busted as he prepared to get down to business. As his companion was waiting outside, deputies arrested him after they say they found what appeared to be a bag of marijuana in his car.

And among those arrested on Thursday was Wendell Irby. The sheriff's department said Irby is the Fairfield County tax assessor.

"It never ceases to amaze me when we do these undercover operations, people from all walks of life end up getting caught in this sting," said Lott.

Lott said these crackdowns are not a top priority for his department.  But, he said when prostitution leads to other criminal activity such as drugs for instance or violence, he feels obligated to respond.

He hopes those who might be trolling that web site or others will think twice after seeing this story.

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