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Prostitution sting nets arrests in Claremont and Pomona

by Mick Rhodes | mickrhodes@claremont-courier.com

The world’s oldest profession took a hit last week when the Claremont Police Department and Pomona PD teamed up for a joint prostitution sting that netted nine arrests.

The sting took place in broad daylight September 17 near Indian Hill Boulevard and Holt Avenue. It involved an undercover Pomona PD officer in her thirties posing as a prostitute in order to lure customers, who were then arrested for misdemeanor solicitation.

Though the sting site was in Pomona, prostitutes working along Holt Avenue often bring their johns back to motels in Claremont, hence the joint operation.

“It’s kind of both our problems because a lot of times the way it works is the prostitutes are down walking around working near Holt Avenue and Indian Hill and that’s typically where they’ll pick up the johns from and then a lot of the prostitutes have rooms back at the Motel 6 and the Claremont Lodge,” said Sgt. David Hardin, Claremont PD’s lead for the joint operation and a 17-year veteran of the force. “They’ll go down there, they’ll pick them up and then they’ll bring them back to the hotel. So that’s why it’s our problem.”

Claremont police have been stepping up patrols in the Indian Hill/10 freeway area of late after seeing a rise in criminal activity, specifically in and around the Motel 6, Claremont Lodge and Knight’s Inn.

“I’m sure you remember about month or so ago we had the two shootings that occurred at Motel 6,” Sgt. Hardin said. “One of the main issues that some of the criminal activity down there was revolving around was the increase in prostitution. That was the reason we conducted the sting.”

Eight of the nine men arrested were charged with misdemeanor solicitation.

A ninth man, Jesse Frias, 26, from Hesperia, was charged with two misdemeanor counts of loitering with the intent to commit prostitution and lewd conduct.

“He went to the officer with the same intent, discussing to make a deal, and he told her he didn’t have the money, that he would have to go get the money and come back,” Sgt. Hardin said. “So that’s why we didn’t have the actual solicitation, because he didn’t have the money on him. You have that other section that he was there for the purpose of soliciting, and the second charge is lewd conduct, because he exposed himself to the undercover officer.”

The other men picked up in the sting were Richard Garcia, 54, from Rancho Cucamonga; James McMinn, 58, Riverside; Jose Penaloza, 40, Fontana; Julian Venegas, 31, Pomona; Patrick Delaney, 62, Barstow; Anthony Garcia, 36, Pomona; Andrew Roybal, 33, Fontana; and Hugo Ventura, 31, from Pomona.

All nine men were arrested, booked at Claremont Police Department, and released with a citation to appear in Pomona Superior Court.

The September 17 sting started about 2 p.m. and finished up about 7 p.m. Police chose the relatively early in the day start time to avoid potential conflicts with any of the actual prostitutes that work in the area, Sgt. Hardin said.

“They weren’t really around because of the lot of the prostitutes down on Holt usually tend to come out more later in the afternoon or into the night,” Sgt. Hardin said. “So that’s why we ran ours a little earlier just so we didn’t have the confrontation. Because a lot of the girls know each other, and a lot of them are territorial, and we don’t want an incident of them trying to fight the undercover officer because she’s encroaching on their territory.”

Though no money changed hands, once a verbal agreement is established between an undercover officer and a john, police have “the elements of a crime,” Sgt. Hardin said.

“Once they’ve negotiated some type of exchange of money for sexual activity, they’ll typically direct the john, ‘Hey, why don’t you go park in the parking lot. I don’t want people to see me getting in your car out on the street,’” Sgt. Hardin said. “And they’ll go drive park, and we’ll conduct an enforcement stop from there, make contact with them and make the arrest.”

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