ST. GEORGE — Eight men were arrested for attempting to patronize a prostitute after answering fake online ads set up by police. The operation also resulted in the rescue of a juvenile from an instance of human trafficking, according to police.
UPDATE Feb. 22, 2019: While it was reported that the police had rescued a juvenile from human trafficking during the prostitution sting resulted in the Dec. 10, 2018, arrests, none of the men involved have been charged by the Washington County Attorney’s Office with any charges related to child trafficking. However, the misdemeanor change for patronizing a prostitute remains.
Deputy Washington County Attorney Rachelle Shumway was unable to speak directly to the alleged incident of human trafficking attached to the case, yet told St. George News that not all of the men arrested were linked to it as far as she is aware.
Larry Meyers, the attorney for Daniel Mahfood, said his client was among the men who is not connected to the human trafficking claim. Shumway also said she is unaware of any link in Mahfood’s case.
In the original incident, the St. George Police Department posted online ads “posing as escorts offering services in St. George area,” according to court documents.
The men are alleged to have made contact with a police officer posing as an escort online and made arrangements to meet and engage in sexual acts in exchange for money. The men were arrested in St. George after meeting with a woman posing as a prostitute and handing her the money, according to court documents.
While the operation was underway, police also rescued a juvenile from human trafficking, St. Goerge Police officer Tiffany Atkin said Monday. She declined to go into further detail but said additional information would be released as the investigation progresses.
Those arrested were Franklin W. Field, Daniel P Mahfood, Jay L. Farnsworth, Travis J. Coleman, Donald K. Railsback, Larin D. Shenah, Lance D. Mackelprang and Mark K. Rawle.
Each man arrested faces a class A misdemeanor charge of patronizing a prostitute for sexual services. In Utah, a class A misdemeanor can carry up to a year in jail and a fine of up to $2,500.
Persons arrested or charged are presumed innocent until found guilty in a court of law.
Ed. note: Part of the information concerning the nature of the above arrests was misattributed to St. George Police officer Tiffany Atkin and has been corrected.
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