MCSO: 51 arrests include prostitution on Backpage.com

PHOENIX - Authorities say an undercover drug operation that lasted months in the East Valley resulted in a big prostitution bust involving BackPage.com.

According to Maricopa County Sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Brandon Jones, 51 suspects were arrested for crimes including prostitution, drug possession, identity theft, weapons charges, and attempted murder.

The operation ended this week.

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MCSO detectives were initially checking out the Inn Suites Hotel near Guadalupe for alleged marijuana trafficking when they discovered the even bigger prostitution operation, Jones said.

Management and owners of the hotel were reportedly unaware of it.

MCSO started investigating further when a hotel guest admitted to detectives that he just left a room where he was with a prostitute, Jones said.

They discovered the prostitute's information came from Backpage.com, a website owned and operated by the Phoenix-based Village Voice Media group, which also owns Phoenix New Times.

Jones said the prostitutes were advertising "escort services" on Backpage.com when they were seeking sex for money.

Undercover detectives set up meetings with women through Backpage.com along Interstate 10 and Baseline Road.

When the women asked for money in return for sex, they were arrested, Jones said.

MCSO also obtained $20,000 in cash and about 65 pounds of marijuana during the operation.

The following arrests were made, according to MCSO:

--Prostitution: 17 arrests

--Possession of marijuana and marijuana for sale: 9 arrests

--Possession of narcotic drugs: 3 arrests

--Possession of dangerous drugs: 3 arrests

--Identity theft: 2 arrests

--Misconduct Involving weapons: 1 arrest

--Control of criminal enterprise (pimps): 2 arrests

--Warrants: 4 arrests

--Prescription drug fraud: 4 arrests

--ICE hold: 1 arrest

--Assist/criminal street gang: 2 arrests

--Attempted murder: 1 arrest

--Probation violation: 1 arrest

--Driving on suspicion license: 1 arrest

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