Wausau Police said they posted bogus ads for prostitutes on backpage.com during a July 25 sting and it took less than ten minutes to start getting responses. Sixty-one of them came over the next seven hours while the ads were up.
These are the first people in Wausau getting a citation for prostitution, instead of being taken to jail on a misdemeanor. A criminal conviction for soliciting a prostitute would result in a permanent record. But Wausau's new ordinance which has been in place for only a few weeks allows the city to collect and keep the fine money, which starts at $2000.
Christopher Barr, 42, of Wausau; Dale Cebula, 55, of Mosinee; Thomas Collins, 45, of Edgar; Michael Yeng Her, 21, of Weston; Aaron Kottke, 36, of Wausau; John Waterman, 70, of Wisconsin Dells and Pa Nhia Hang, 22, of St. Paul, Minn. were issued citations.
Hang was issued two citations; one for not having an escort license and another for prostitution resulting in $4,000 in fines. The men cited each received a $2,000 citation for prostitution.
Kottke is listed as a 5th grade teacher in the Franklin Elementary School's online staff directory.
Wausau School District Superintendent, Kathleen Williams, told NewsChannel 7 in an August 5 phone call, the teacher cited in a July prostitution sting turned in a resignation letter. Williams said on the phone she cannot discuss any specifics, including who the teacher is, or where he works, until the district board meeting Monday, August 11. She said no action is being taken on his resignation until then.
Investigators said they focus mainly on the men trying to hire the prostitutes, commonly called "Johns."
The clients trying to hire on this night July 25th include a 21-year-old, an autistic man and a local business owner whom police say a few years before reported his own daughter for selling herself. Another man who drove up from the Wisconsin Dells and a local teacher who got sick to his stomach when he found out he was the target of a sting were also cited. Police said most of them are men who want to try something sexually to which their wives or girlfriends will not agree.
Lieutenant Matt Barnes said prostitution is not a victimless crime, as those involved as well as their loved ones can all be harmed by the acts.
"We find that the vast majority of the prostitutes that we've dealt with in our investigations have children. We've had children brought to the undercover operations and expected to sit in a car while their mothers are inside performing their prostitution acts,” said Lt. Barnes.
He said he believes the wives of the men who hire prostitutes are also victims as they are not only subject to sexually transmitted diseases, but also mental and emotional harm.
"It can break up a family. It goes on and on with the negative impacts and I can't think of a positive one," he explained.
In the sting, police record what the clients texted or talked about on the phone. In fact, there's usually enough evidence to make an arrest before the customer ever gets to the site of the sting. Most are aware Wausau police have been conducting stings, asking the undercover officer posing as a prostitute if she's in fact in law enforcement.
For the critics who would contend a sting like this is a waste of taxpayer money Lt. Barnes said, "Those people that would say that have not had to deal with human trafficking. Have not had to see the young girls being pimped out who are prostituting themselves under the threat of duress, facing being physically injured if they don't perform sex acts for money."
Even with Wausau's city ordinance allowing police to write a ticket instead of taking an offender to jail on a misdemeanor charge, officers still have the option of making the full arrest. Doing so depends on the criminal background of the person caught in the act and how cooperative he or she may be with police.
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