Tulsa PD takes down prostitution ring in “Operation Velvet Fury”

It’s a little more challenging to be a desperate john in Tulsa.

Last week, law enforcement officials announced the results of a prostitution sting called “Operation Velvet Fury.”

Via Fox 25…

TULSA, Oklahoma – Tulsa County District Attorney’s Office and the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office announced on Friday the results of an ongoing investigation into illicit massage businesses. The joint operation, called “Operation Velvet Fury,” targeted people running what are alleged to be fronts for prostitution – and websites used by the businesses.

Tulsa Police and a task force of local and state agents started making arrests Thursday in a year-long investigation of prostitution. Their work centered on use of an online scheduling system that connected the leaders of the group with customers. Police say they have identified several hundred women involved in prostitution, and many hundreds of men who paid for their services.

First of all, there is something really awesome about this operation. While the officers are seeking to arrest those who paid for the services or actually ran the business, apparently they are not arresting the prostitutes. According to the article, because many prostitutes are victims of sex trafficking themselves, Tulsa PD is sending them to victims’ services centers rather than jail time.

However, there are two things very wrong with this operation. One, the name doesn’t really match the crime in the case, because anyone who is associating “velvet” with sexual encounters obviously hasn’t seen a porno since 1976. And two, with numbers reaching far into the hundreds, it’s astonishing how many average Oklahoma men took advantage of the sex trafficking trade.

The affidavit charging Williamson noted the Superintendent of Ripley Schools, Dr. Kenneth Beams, uses the same online forum, and the documents say he is a known customer of prostitutes in Tulsa.

In a phone interview, Beams said the allegation was incorrect, and did not acknowledge knowing about the screen names connected to him in the documents. He was taken into custody late Friday for soliciting and booked into David L. Moss Correctional Center in Tulsa.

“Persons of all professions have been identified as ‘johns’ – doctors, husbands, lawyers, whatever. And it’s something we’ve been shocked by and it’s surprising how deep those tentacles reach,” said Assistant District Attorney Kenneth Elmore, the Director of the Special Victims Unit.

Assistant AG Brasher said, “We’ve identified hundreds of women involved, and on the john side, hundreds and hundreds of johns.”

Officials say they expect many more arrests in the case as they develop more names culled from the online activity.

It is terrible coming to the realization of how prevalent sex trafficking is in Oklahoma, but it is satisfying knowing that justice will soon be served to these “Johns.” Maybe instead of naming the investigation “Operation Velvet Fury,” investigators should have gone with something like “Operation Little John.” Because there is no smaller, weaker human being than someone who knowingly pays to have sex with a human trafficking victim.

If you know a victim of human trafficking, call 1-888-373-7888. Follow Hayley on twitter @squirrellygeek