HPD officer among 139 arrested in prostitution, trafficking sting

HOUSTON – Houston police Chief Art Acevedo and members of the HPD Vice Division announced Thursday the results of a sting aimed at people who buy or sell sex.

Acevedo announced that 139 men were arrested in a 10-day sex trade sting, Operation H Star, in Harris County.

A Houston Police Department officer was arrested as a result of the sting, officials said. He has posted a $500 bond, and was placed on paid administrative leave pending the outcome of an investigation.

HPD, the Harris County District Attorney's Office, and Children at Risk, collaborated on the investigation which took place from Oct. 2 to Oct. 13 at a location that had been known to have been involved with illicit sex trade in the past.

"We do not know how long 7 Star Spa operated out of this location, but we do know Vice had operation arrests stemming back to 2007," said Acevedo.

"Upon entry buyers were greeted by an undercover officer and escorted to a private massage room where they engaged in conversation and ultimately bought a sexual act," said one investigator at the news conference.

Houston police did not know they would find one of their own.

“Sadly, I want you all to know, that a member of the Houston Police Department was caught up in this sting," Acevedo said. "And let me just say this, that person was immediately put on restricted duty, that person is not part of our internal affairs investigations and I’m pretty confident that the person’s future with the police department is not looking very promising.”

Officials released the photos of the so-called “johns." 

Investigators said a Homeland Security Investigations TSA tech working with FEMA and a teacher with the Sheldon Independent School District were also arrested.

"Sheldon ISD administrators are aware of a police investigation that may also involve a district employee. Therefore, following district protocol, this individual has been placed on paid administrative leave pending the results of the investigation," said Derik Moore, Sheldon ISD spokesperson.

"Out of all the major cities in the U.S., Houston has the highest concentration of illicit massage establishments having anywhere between 250 and 520 illicit massage establishments at any given time," said Acevedo.

The chief said the Johns paid $120 for sexual acts along with a $60 door fee.

"What I did was wrong. It was a mistake, and I regret it," said the officer who was arrested. "I will be punished, and I should be punished. I will plead guilty ... I should not have done it."

The announcement was an effort to help deter others from engaging in the illegal sex trade, officials said.

"Many of these women who work in these illicit massage establishments ... have no other options for survival and are exploited by the operators of these establishments for profit. The women are often forced to work under deplorable conditions," said Acevedo. "Every woman we save, every child we save is one step closer to making this a better community."

Editor's note: KPRC 2 has opted not to identify the officer involved in this case because he works in an undercover capacity, and doing so could harm his family.

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About the Authors:

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.