South Portland prostitution sting nets 8 johns

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SOUTH PORTLAND — Police arrested eight men as part of a prostitution sting by area police and are expected to appear in court later this month. 

The alleged solicitors were charged Dec. 7 with one count each of engaging a prostitute, a misdemeanor crime, according to a Dec. 30 press release from  Detective Christopher Todd. 

Bernard Powers, 49, Victor Sanga, 39, John Ricker, 57, Branko Pishev, 56, Douglas Fales, 47, Adam McOwen, 40, Orlin Diaz, 39, and James Bryant, 44, were placed under arrest. No addresses were listed for the defendants, who are scheduled to appear in Cumberland County Unified Court Jan. 17.

According to bail bond documents, the men were arrested at a hotel in South Portland. No complaints have been filed at the courthouse that detail the nature of the arrests.

South Portland, Portland, and Scarborough police departments were involved in the operation. 

South Portland Lt. Frank Clark on Wednesday said the sting was part of a routine practice used to deter the demand for prostitution. It is hoped the sting operations will change the behaviors of those seeking sex for sale, he said.

Clark said often the public may think of prostitution as a victimless crime, between two consenting adults. ” What needs recognition is that it is not victimless,” he said. 

A 2015 report on human trafficking in Maine by South Portland-based Hornby Zeller Associates for the Maine Coalition Against Sexual Assault estimated the prevalence of sex trafficking in Maine ranges between 200 and 300 cases annually.

According to nationalhumantraffickinghotline.org, there were 11 human trafficking cases reported in the state in 2017 – 11 sex trafficking cases and four labor trafficking cases.

Clark said a paradigm shift occurred five to 10 years ago in how prostitution cases are investigated. He said the previous practice was the cases were investigated, and the prostitutes were charged. That’s where the case finished.

Now, questions about why people prostitute themselves are coming to the fore, including the possibility of coercion or being forced by another person. Clark said prostitutes are now also treated as victims. 

The lieutenant said awareness has grown as there has been more education about human trafficking and prostitution statewide, and task force efforts, as well as training from federal agencies for local police departments.

He said there is collaboration between law enforcement agencies at all levels, with the goal of reducing prostitution and human trafficking. 

Clark said there have been cases where underage girls were prostituting themselves. Besides coercion or human trafficking, drug addiction is another insidious element often tied to the work. 

When asked if prostitutes are still charged with solicitation, Clark said it is case- specific. 

The lieutenant said police departments work closely with social service agencies such as Family Crisis Services and victim support services to connect women with resources so they are able to access help with addiction, learn core skills and job training.

“There are success stories, and that’s why we’re doing what we’re doing,” Clark said. 

 Juliette Laaka can be reached at 781-3661 ext.,106 or jlaaka@theforecaster.net.

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  • Chew H Bird

    There is no scenario that anyone should be forced or coerced into any sort of sexual behavior they do not choose. There is no scenario where underage participation in sex for money should exist.

    However, a person can obtain a back rub for money, a massage for money, a foot rub for money, have their body manipulated in a manner that feels good for money and all of the above are legal with one exception… No happy endings…

    What makes sense to me is legalizing and regulating the worlds oldest profession which will make it easier to identify and protect victims of trafficking, and take revenue away from the people wishing to exploit other, and lock up the abusers.

    While I have never visited a person of the night, if the choice to do so is mutually agreeable, people should have the right to make their own decisions.

  • The Pope

    Bonjourno, it’s me The Pope. So what is the new kind of the insect called the prostitution that is be doing the stinging of the people who be named the John? Me and Ex-Pope Benny know about the insects called the bee, the wasp, the hornet but so we have never been the aware of the prostitution bug. It must be the smartest of all the bugs if for it knows to bite the only people named the John. We hope so it never comes the Vatican City.
    Mazel tov

    The Pope
    Scraping the Popemobile’s windshield
    Vatican City