Out in The Colony, an Undercover Sting and a Sex-Trafficking Ring in an Unlikely Place

The Colony has steadily moved up in the prestigious ranks of best DFW suburbs, and it's been designated as a "Playful City USA," which means the Humana Foundation thinks there are lots of playgrounds here. But the suburb's idyllic veneer was cracked this week when 14 johns, seven escorts and two underage escorts were arrested on Thursday at a seedy hotel there. Three others were arrested on drug-related charges.

Denton County Sheriff William Travis told Unfair Park the remote location was ideal for a trafficking ring of this size, and helped evade detection. "It's not ever concentrated up here in Denton County," he said. "A lot of these operations are usually conducted in Dallas County."

Of the johns, eight had entered the country illegally. Denton County Sheriff William Travis said that being a client of prostitutes will likely not lead to deportation. Two to four more arrests of associated pimps are expected in the next few days.

Two of the escorts were 17-year-olds and were referred to as "rescues." "We will try to work with them," Travis said. "We will do everything we can to get them out of the industry and get them the services they need to change career paths in life." Travis did not say that the girls were forced into prostitution, but they may have had a history of abuse that led to their voluntary involvement.

The raid was conducted by The Colony Police Department, the Denton County Sheriff's Office, and the US Department of Homeland Security. Travis cited months of undercover work and surveillance work before acting. The sheriff's office said the ultimate goal in the sting was to identify local underage exploited sex workers.

Lt. Darren Brockway said The Colony Police Department focused on the internet community in leading to the bust. And Travis said this is just one example of police departments looking to Craigslist and Backpage sex ads, and social media outlets, for their leads. "Most of the trafficking isn't on the street corner but [on] cyber streets," he told the Denton Record-Chronicle. "I hope this brings awareness to how rampant this issue is. ... We could click on an ad and the phones would be blowing up within minutes." (Backpage, an online classified site with offices in Dallas, used to be owned by the Observer's parent company.)

Travis said a bust of this magnitude send a strong message to local traffickers. "We will hunt you and we will track you down," he said, presumably speaking to would-be local traffickers rather than Unfair Park. "And we will make sure we do our best to get you out of that profession."

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Emily Mathis