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CMPD cracks down on internet-based prostitution

Three Charlotte men face prostitution solicitation charges for arranging to meet undercover Charlotte-Mecklenburg police officers for sex.

The police department’s Vice and Narcotics Unit made the arrests Wednesday after an undercover operation designed to target a growing trend of crimes associated with Internet-based prostitution in the Charlotte-area.

Jefferson Dill, 46, and Earon Drake, 32, were arrested for soliciting a crime against nature. A third man, 29-year-old Ameer Brown, was charged with solicitation of a prostitute in the undercover sting.

So far this year the department has investigated four robberies linked to sexual encounters that have been arranged through backpage.com, a website for advertising services.

In 2012, detectives tied eight robberies to meetings solicited on backpage.com.

“And that doesn’t even account for all of the ones that go unreported because of the stigma attached,” CMPD spokesman Rob Tufano said.

The Internet has become a popular place for sex traffickers, pimps and prostitutes to advertise, because it’s cheap and anonymous, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office told the Observer in January.

“And there are fewer ways for the so-called pimps to get caught,” spokeswoman Lia Bantavani said.

In January, Charlotte-Mecklenburg police arrested a man and woman for allegedly using backpage.com to lure a Gastonia man to the Relax Inn at 6246 N. Tryon St. for sex, records show.

When the man showed up, the suspects robbed him at gunpoint and stole his clothing.

David Hopper, 19, and Alexis Fraley, 16, were charged with robbery with a dangerous weapon and conspiracy to commit armed robbery.

Police said Friday they will continue targeting Internet-based prostitution in the coming months.

Steele: 704-358-5067 on Twitter: @steelecs
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