COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - WIS News 10's cameras are there for a major prostitution sting in Richland County. Count on WIS News 10's Angie Goff to investigate.
He arrives at room 208. For Irmo dad David LeBlanc - the hotel may seem like the perfect place. But it's not as private as he thinks. The second he pays an officer posing as a prostitute, $30 for sex, WIS cameras are there as the dirty deal goes down.
LeBlanc is one of nearly a dozen men arrested in a two-day prostitution sting in Richland County.
One 57-year-old says he was concerned for the prostitute. And the undercover officer, "Chris," says, "Yes, he offered to help me off the streets."
Chris: "He propositioned me $20."
Angie: "For what?"
Chris: "For sex."
Angie asks the man, "If you really wanted to help her why didn't you just offer some money and then let her go?"
He says, "Yeah, I should of did that."
Eight women were also charged in the sting - with selling sex to officers posing as "Johns."
Kathy Williams, who works by the name "Suzanne," says prostitution is her full time job, that she'll perform for as little as $20.
Officers found a crack pipe in her purse. She admits all her money goes to drugs.
She says her last hit was 30 minutes before the bust. She says, "I want to learn how to do something different but I don't know how."
"Hopefully we make a difference in someone's life, whether it's the person committing the crime or our communities," says Lt. Ruben Santiago. It's why Lt. Santiago sets up nights like the bust.
Undercover detectives get two hotel rooms that connect, one that's staged with messy covers and a hidden camera. The other is where special equipment monitors every move.
Complaints from the community have officers focused around Two Notch and Bush River Road. That's where they found a number of the 19 people arrested had been in trouble before.
After one man, who was staying in the hotel with his girlfriend, was arrested for soliciting sex, a background check revealed he was Corey Marshall. Marshall is a 30-year-old on probation - for assault and battery with intent to kill.
And remember David LeBlanc? A quick internet search on the Midlands dad showed he was convicted seven years ago for indecent exposure.
And the women charged with selling sex aren't all saints either. This is the fourth time Kathy Williams, or "Suzanne," has been caught prostituting.
Kayla Rauch says it's how she's made her money since she was 15. "I want to stop. This, this isn't what you want."
And it's not just women working these streets who officers are busting. They're also catching women working for escort services who show up offering more than companionship.
From the "Free Times," officers called several escort businesses. Every time, women responded and were arrested.
After one woman called her company to say she made it okay, she agrees to have sex and takes Lt. Santiago's $200. Lt. Santiago says, "When I asked them, 'Why do you keep doing this?' we can tell they're embarrassed by it, but they say the money is too good."
Lt. Santiago says prostitutes take in, on average, $1,000 to $1,500 a week. Kayla says she made $3,200 one night in Columbia.
It's a lucrative business that often involves other illegal activity. The charges this weekend range from prostitution to drugs to even assault on an officer.
In all, eight women and 11 men headed to jail - closing the door on a busy night that ends with a full house and officers ready to work the street again.
Lt. Santiago says, "Every time you take one of these criminal elements off the street it makes Columbia and Richland County a little bit safer, each time."
Four of the 19 people arrested are still in jail. The others got out on surety bonds. All of them are scheduled to be in court July Fifth.
Reported by Angie Goff