PHOENIX - An undercover investigation in which two female detectives posed as 16-year-old prostitutes has led to the arrest of 30 people in Maricopa County.
The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office said Wednesday that investigators took out online ads earlier this month in hopes of finding sexual predators seeking underage prostitutes. The 30 people were arrested for soliciting a minor for prostitution.
One of the most notable arrests of those soliciting underage prostitutes was a high school chemistry teacher who taught at Fairfax High School in Laveen.
Officials said 54-year- old Jerry Marfe resigned his teaching position directly after his arrest.
Craig Pletenik with Phoenix Unified School District told ABC15, Marfe was immediately placed on leave and later resigned from the district.
"This individual taught in our district for 27 years. A veteran teacher, taught international baccalaureate chemistry even taught some dual enrollment classes. We had to make a few adjustments here for the end of the semester for the kids that were in the class." said Pletenik.
MCSO released video of Marfe's arrest in the hotel room where he was caught soliciting a minor.
In the video, Marfe is told the girl is only 16, but that doesn't deter him:
Marfe: How old are you?
Undercover detective: We're both 16, almost 17 though
Undercover detectives: Her birthday is next weekend
Marfe: Really, wow. So how do a couple of 16 year olds get into this???
Marfe is also told one of the girls is a cheerleader and according to court papers he then requests for her to wear her cheerleading uniform during sex.
"I'm almost thinking ‘wait a minute, if he's doing this off duty, could he be doing this at school?' That's my concern on that issue too. He got caught." said Sheriff Joe Arpaio.
Students told ABC15 Marfe was a quiet but strict teacher.
In addition to Marfe, a level two sex offender currently on probation, Raymond John Cordero was arrested as well as another man, John David Wythe, 48, who had served 10 years in prison for child molestation.
Arpaio said a few men backed away when hearing that the prostitutes were 16 years old, but most still wanted to have sex with them even after hearing their age. One man who was arrested wanted to have sex with two girls before going to his daughter's 16th birthday party, Arpaio said.
"Some were lined up in the parking lot of the hotel," the sheriff said of those who were arrested.
Arpaio said the prostitution sting was part of a larger crackdown on street-level crime.
In addition to the child prostitution sting, the sheriff's office also had female officers pose as prostitutes to arrest people seeking to pay for sex with adults.
The crackdown netted 32 adult prostitution arrests, 21 drug-related arrests, and misdemeanor arrests at adult businesses such as strip clubs for not having a special operating permit.