Female decoy used in prostitution sting, 9 arrested

Stock image, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The St. George Police Department released additional details on a prostitution sting that landed nine men, mostly from Southern Utah, in jail on Friday.

The nine men arrested in a prostitution sting: top row, from left, Darrin Navas Odell, of Washington, My Phung Tran, of St. George, Martin Fernando Garcia, of St. George; second row, from left, Joseph Dye, of Uintah, Robert Joseph Anderson, of Ivins, (redacted; court record expunged by court order circa Jan. 31, 2017); third row, from left, (redacted; court record expunged by court order July 27, 2016), Travis Rhett Popp, of Heber City, Nathan Arnold Phipps, of St. George, booking photos posted June 27, 2014 | Photos courtesy of Washington County Sheriff’s Office, St. George News

The sting began with a fictitious ad posted online for sexual services, according to a statement from the Police Department. Nine men individually contacted a female decoy by phone in response to the ads and agreed to meet. Over the phone, the men discussed sexual acts in exchange for money and then met up with the decoy, where further dialog took place.

Each man was arrested after sufficient evidence was gathered in each case to support the charge of patronizing a prostitute.  The nine men were:

  • Darrin Odell, 24 of Washington, UT
  • My Tran, 29 of St. George, UT
  • Martin Garcia, 24 of St. George, UT
  • Joseph Dye, 57 of Uintah, UT
  • Robert Anderson, 63 of Ivins, UT
  • (Name redacted – see ed. note), Hurricane, UT
  • (Name redacted – see ed. note), Cedar City, UT
  • Travis Popp, 39 of Heber City, UT
  • Nathan Phipps, 48 of St. George, UT

Each man was charged with one class-B misdemeanor for patronizing a prostitute, which is a violation of Utah Criminal Code 76-10-1303(1)(A).

Under the statute, a person is guilty of patronizing a prostitute if they pay, offer to pay or agree to pay another person for the purpose of engaging in a sexual act, according to information from the Utah Legislature.

Each man was booked into Washington County’s Purgatory Correctional Facility on bonds of $587 each. All have since posted bail and been released from custody, according to information from the Washington County Sheriff’s Office.

Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law or as otherwise decided by a trier-of-fact.

St. George News reporter Cami Cox Jim contributed to this report.

Ed. notes:  Oct. 30, 2016 – The name and photo of one of the nine has been redacted as the justice judge ordered his record expunged July 27, 2016. March 9, 2018 – The name and photo of a second of the nine has been redacted as the justice judge ordered his record expunged Jan. 1, 2017.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2014, all rights reserved.

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  • Darth Dude June 30, 2014 at 10:56 am

    The last guy looks a little like Walter White.

  • Temple Boys? June 30, 2014 at 11:29 am

    Well, they had better make sure their tithing is current and maybe throw some more money at the church if they want to maintain their temple worthiness.

    • Whit June 30, 2014 at 5:18 pm

      What are you talking about? How did this have anything to do with the church and tithing? You show some real class!

    • uh huh June 30, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Good Call.

    • TARRELL July 1, 2014 at 9:38 am

      Which one?

  • Duchess Vera June 30, 2014 at 11:47 am

    As expected, entrapment in its greatness. New low even for Washington County law enforcement…

    • Tom June 30, 2014 at 1:14 pm

      No one made those guys look up a sex worker on craigslist, make the call, talk dirty, make the deal, and go to the designated romping place. Entrapment would be a more suitable term when a girl approaches an innocent, uninvolved guy out of the blue and propositions him. You may not think sex work should be illegal or enforced, but this is not entrapment.

      • Calif June 30, 2014 at 3:53 pm

        Where did they get all the Girl Scout Cookies?

  • Duchess Vera June 30, 2014 at 11:51 am

    And how that female decoy sleeps at night? Disgusting human being without any morals and, most likely, with extremely low IQ…

    • Jen Lindley June 30, 2014 at 1:16 pm

      As you apparently lack the ability after two tries to form a complete sentence, I suppose you would know.

      • Duchess Vera July 1, 2014 at 6:27 am

        Sweetheart, you seem awfully offended by my comment about the decoy. Were it you posing as a working girl?

  • E T June 30, 2014 at 12:16 pm

    What a waste of man power, ST. George Police are fools and need to a life.

    • TARRELL July 1, 2014 at 10:53 am

      Proof of way to many police. And they are all dreaming up ways to play like their in a movie.
      They tried to frame me by sending their girl to my house and picked me up and told me some girls wanted to meet me for possible DOUBLE fun.
      Their girl was not pretty so out of curiosity I went to see what these girls interested in me looked like. Well their girl took me to a house while she purchased some dope then said she had to go and I could meet the girls next time. A few months later the entire st George police department come to my home and arested me for what the rectum newspaper (locals name for The Spectrum) made sound like I was the drug kingpin.
      I asked for a fast and speedy trial and was on bail for five years before they had to drop the charges. All true facts and public record.
      Check it out.

  • LOL'd June 30, 2014 at 12:17 pm

    what they don’t tell you is that is was actually a male decoy dressed as a female. Don’t ask me how I know…

  • LAME June 30, 2014 at 1:22 pm

    Seriously they went through all that trouble to nail these guys for what amounts to a speeding ticket…way to go police..I feel so much safer…NOT

  • MATT June 30, 2014 at 2:08 pm


  • Banished One June 30, 2014 at 2:28 pm

    Crime Creation to support budgets with headlines. I feel safer.

  • killjoy June 30, 2014 at 2:45 pm

    Way to go StG Police. Teach these idiots to keep themselves to themselves. Wonder how many of these idiots are married and if they are, how many are on their way to divorce court?

  • Xposit June 30, 2014 at 4:04 pm

    Finally, those who have been plotting to undermine the government and take over the city, the evil desperado’s who are willing to pay for sex, have been rounded up and detained for 24 hours. The Streets of St. George are safe once again. Until next weekend at least. What a joke.

  • daveo June 30, 2014 at 4:55 pm

    It seems a bit sleazy to entrap and then publish these men’s name in the newspaper for something so minor as a victimless misdemeanor.

    • Duchess Vera July 1, 2014 at 6:15 am

      Rare voices of reason are always appreciated.

  • Whit June 30, 2014 at 5:17 pm

    These comments seem to be written by complete imbeciles! These creeps are criminals. I would not want any of these perverts as neighbors or friends. I would not want them around my children or wife.

    Yes St George police, I do feel safer. Please keep these “Sex Offenders” out of my neighborhood and away from my wife and my children. Thank you!

    • uh huh June 30, 2014 at 5:58 pm

      Right…good call. Keep consenting adults who want to meet and have relations off the streets but keep your tithing friend J.J. on the street cuz his crimes aren’t about sex…just money. I know for you it seems sex is soooo dirty, get counseling.

  • Super Grover June 30, 2014 at 6:29 pm

    Seems like a waste of time and taxpayer money.

    I can see the point of using a sting operation to lure child molesters into the open….but this just seems silly.

  • Seena Youamoma Lastknight June 30, 2014 at 6:33 pm

    To the second and fourth responder I’m glad to see you still think it’s ok for dead beats to run the streets. And I’m glad to see these men thought they where meeting your mother and sisters for a date. I know I’m glad to know your women.

  • Sunny July 1, 2014 at 3:26 am

    I do not understand why you would call a man that pays for sex a sex offender. It is offered as a service. Both parties consent. These men are not criminals. St. George Police, please use our tax dollars with intelligence and do something like help people.

    • Duchess Vera July 1, 2014 at 6:23 am

      Sunny, St. George Police and intelligence do not mix, unfortunately.

    • Mean momma July 5, 2014 at 3:49 pm

      Yeah, just call them losers who can’t get sex without paying for it.

  • BG July 1, 2014 at 8:12 am

    How about go after real sex offenders instead of contrivance. Sad.

  • butterflyaway July 1, 2014 at 8:42 am

    The police didn’t just decide to set up a sting to see if prostitution was occurring in this town. It IS occurring. Has been for years. And like it or not, it’s against the law. And when people are breaking the law, police set up sting operations to catch them! That’s just how it’s done. If they get wind of drugs being sold, they send in an undercover cop or a “decoy”. Or to catch pedophiles, they will fake being a child to lure them. Or someone selling cigarettes to minors, or LOTS of other things! Why is everyone getting so upset over this sting operation? The police are just doing what they do. You don’t like it, don’t break the law! Go somewhere where it’s legal. This is no different than any other sting set up or undercover operation.

    • Cedar resident July 9, 2014 at 12:16 am

      I totally agree butterflyaway. If your breaking the law, you should get caught. The st. George police are just doing their jobs, do you guys want them telling you how to do yours!!! Also, why do people have to bring religion into EVERY THING!

  • Jon R. Cocktoasten July 1, 2014 at 9:29 am

    Just a few thoughts… First off, entrapment is when the police or government agent gets a person to do something that they wouldn’t normally do, by means of money coercion, using sex, etc. None of this happened as the men all called the number listed on the add. Another thought, do you all remember the “Human Trafficking ” case that has been in the news? A majority of these call girls are basically sex slaves to a pimp. The SGPD has actually freed some of these women from a horrible life of enslavement. So is this operation a waste of money? Maybe if they used all off duty officers and paid them overtime, which I don’t think is the case. This all being said, legalize prostitution, make the girls get a business license and have mandatory condom use and physical check ups as well as STD testing. This way it will be just a moral issue between the man and the prostitute. Which is moot unless the man is marries, or otherwise involved. Then the police can go after the unlicensed girls who may be spreading disease, etc. That is all for now!

  • Neil July 1, 2014 at 9:35 am

    This is nothing short of criminal activity on the part of local “authorities.” Law enforcement in Washington County isn’t about protecting and serving the public, it’s more like a for-profit criminal enterprise that views the citizens as a pool of potential customers. If their services are not in demand, they create a false demand so they can fill it. Every member of the St George Police Department that was involved in this vicious exploitation of lonely people to justify their own existence needs to go take a long look in the mirror and re-evaluate what they’re doing with their lives.

  • Were They Drunk July 1, 2014 at 9:51 am

    Were the cops drunk? That seems to be happening a lot lately.

  • Squirrel July 1, 2014 at 3:33 pm

    If they guys weren’t out looking for trouble then they wouldn’t have found it. Everything happens for a reason. But sometimes the reason is that you’re stupid and you make bad decisions!! It happens to everyone at some level.

  • Rocco M. July 1, 2014 at 4:25 pm

    Wow some funny reactions from people on this one. Look its simple, solicitation of prostitution is against the law. How do you expect to enforce said law without a sting situation? These men were in no way forced to call to set up this illegal activity. If you feel the police were in the wrong on this instance by all means ask your local officials to legalize prostitution. Otherwise do not get upset at the police enforcing the laws.

  • K July 1, 2014 at 4:56 pm


  • Please leave July 1, 2014 at 7:40 pm

    If you believe prostitution is ok. According Jonna T Limpshire fices published in 1666 page 3079 column 974 column 603. Society believing that it is not only ok, but believed to be excepted by the up most desire that consenting adult can and may join into a sexual unification for the purpose of income, … action of monetary or of trade. It’s has been deemed that any such person believing or excepting this as a common of truthful exchange has been molested by patently … With this study we declare that formost and always ends with the destruction of nature by which cultural differences have been established in and always leads to failed society of …. Failure.
    Ed. ellipses.

    • JSD July 2, 2014 at 6:23 am

      Please Leave – Thanks for clearing that up?!?

    • crackerjack July 4, 2014 at 11:55 pm

      I’m baffled by your disjointed comment. What is it your trying to say in coherent fashion?

  • Party Hearty July 6, 2014 at 7:58 am

    St George sets up sting operations, yet, the really big problem of marketing young girls to older men still continues in the many polygamist communities throughout Utah. Utahans continue to play blind, deaf and dumb.

    • LOL'd July 7, 2014 at 1:00 pm

      a small price to pay for liberty. Just go ask bryan hyde…

  • Hooking Up July 7, 2014 at 11:55 am

    I thought church singles dances and gyms were the places in St George where people hooked up for sexual relations.

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