OPELIKA, Ala — Police say 12 people have been arrested and three underage girls are in custody after investigators set up sting to catch people involved in prostitution.
A press release says investigations into sex trafficking led Opelika police to discover several local hotels were unknowingly being used for illegal prostitution. The statement reads federal agencies and local officers worked together in an undercover operation to find and arrest those involved in prostitution.
Captain Shane Healey says the year long investigation began when officers responded to a trespassing call at local hotel on June 23rd 2015. Officers say they found a 16-year-old girl lying about who she was. It was later discovered she was from a rural Lee County area and was at the hotel because she was being forced into prostitution.
Officers say as they investigated the hotel further, they found two other girls engaging in coerced prostitution with adults. Healey says one girl is a 17-year-old from Opelika and the other is a 14-year-old runaway from north Alabama. All three girls are in protective custody.
“It’s not something that happens everyday, necessarily here in Opelika,” Captain Healey said. “Obviously, human trafficking is a major concern across the world, and the fact that it touches home here in mid-size America is disturbing that it truly does touch all over the world.”
Investigators say 25-year-old Aleisha Michelle Bufford is charged with two counts of first degree human trafficking in connection to these underage girls. The release says Bufford is in Lee County jail with bond set at $100,000 for each of her two charges.
Further investigations into human trafficking led police to the other hotels being used for prostitution. Eleven people have been arrested and charged as a result of an undercover sting set up on June 17.
“We decided as a city and as a police department that we’re not going to tolerate that kind of behavior and activity in our city, and we wanted to go out and proactively target the individuals involved in this activity and arrest them and let people know that we’re not going to put up with that here,” Captain Healey said.
All charges in these cases are misdemeanors and will be prosecuted through Opelika Municipal Court on Wednesday, August 31st at 1:30 P.M.
Out of sensitivity for potential victims who were unwillingly coerced into prostitution, News 3 will not publish the women arrested for prostitution.
The following photos and names are the 6 men charged with soliciting a prostitute: