Police investigate popular online site as part of prostitution sting

Published: Nov. 8, 2007 at 3:52 AM EST|Updated: Nov. 14, 2007 at 5:02 AM EST
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By Scott Harvey
WAVE 3 Investigator

LOUISVILLE (WAVE) -- Sex in Louisville, online. It's a story that's hard to believe, but police tell us it's true. WAVE 3 discovered a popular website is being used by prostitutes to advertise their services. And maybe even more surprising is the area of town they're using for their late night rendezvous. WAVE 3 Investigator Scott Harvey spoke to undercover officers and has more.

Here's how it works. Men and women -- allegedly selling sex -- put in an ad and wait for an email or phone call. Usually on the same day, a meeting is arranged and police tell us it's happening on one of the most visited online classifieds in the world.

On Craigslist.com you can do many things. Buy a bike, find an apartment, look for jobs and --  according to Louisville Police -- find prostitutes. They began using the site as part of their investigations a year ago.

"We didn't even have any knowledge of Craigslist," said an undercover detective with LMPD. "We received a complaint, an anonymous complaint and started looking into it."

It's not illegal to advertise an adult escort service on the site but "We set up undercover stings and had some of these girls come to us and they tried to perform an act of prostitution," said the undercover detective.

Police say the girls are nomadic, moving from town to town. When they get to a new location, it's time for a new ad.

"We've seen people coming in from all over the United States, coming in to Louisville to prostitute," explained the detective. "They use Craigslist to get that advertisement out that they're in town and they can meet."

Just this week, police say they busted a cyber pimp -- 42 year old Joseph Dean Faulkenberg of Louisville. According to a police report obtained by WAVE 3, Faulkenberg posted several of ads for his service on Craigslist. Police say he took one of his girls to the Holiday Inn on Gardiner Lane -- right next to YUM headquarters -- for an appointment. It turned out to be a date with an undercover officer.

Detectives showed us some ads on the site. One is from a girl who says her name is Melina, but investigators say she's actually 19 year old Tawny Badder. She was cited for prostitution last month. Another listed her name as Jewel offering massages. Police say her real name is Kacey Newton and she too was cited last month for soliciting sex. Investigators say while some girls claim to be escorts, they actually use codes to advertise what's really for sale.

"If you look at the different sites, some of them have a codeword, like GFE or GEF, about what kind of services they provide," said the detective. "Once you learn what those different meanings are, it's pretty blunt on what they advertise."

We tried to contact officials with Craigslist, but none of our phone calls or emails were returned. Again, investigators tell us, it's not illegal to post ads for escort or massage services on the site.

Online Reporter: Scott Harvey

Online Producer: Charles Gazaway