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Backpage Bust: Waco-New Orleans Prostitution Ring Rooted Out in CBD
The NOPD broke up a Texas-based prostitution ring Tuesday after tracking down a woman on the classified website backpage.com, according to police reports. A man and two women from Waco, Texas, were arrested Wednesday for allegedly bringing three women to New Orleans to work for sex out of a CBD hotel. One man, 23-year-old Eddie Sowells, faces human trafficking charges in connection with the case.
Detective Kurt Eischen, who works in the NOPD's Eighth District, spotted an ad on the website at about 10:30 p.m. Tuesday. He arranged to meet with 19-year-old Alexis Keener at a hotel room in the 100 block of St. Charles Ave. When the detective got to the room, Keener called an unnamed 19-year-old woman, and asked if she could bring condoms to her room.
Once the woman got to the room, Eischen and three other NOPD detectives were there to greet her. The woman admitted to her involvement in the ring, telling the detectives that the room was one of three rented for prostitution by Katrina Walls. Eventually, 24-year-old Walls also came to the hotel room, and began to talk.
Detectives learned Sowells picked up Keener and the 19-year-old in Waco, and drove them to New Orleans. In the arrangement, Sowells got a 50 percent cut for each trick. In addition to renting the rooms, Walls placed the ads on the Internet.
Detectives eventually found Sowells in a different room with 19-year-old Taylor Courtney. In addition to facing prostitution charges, Courtney turned over an unloaded handgun that she was keeping in her purse. The gun was found to be stolen.
The group was brought to the Eighth District police station in the French Quarter, where they were charged. Sowells faces pandering, stolen gun possession and human trafficking charges. Walls faces charges of promoting prostitution and alllowing space for prostitution. Kenner faces a prostitution charge, and Courtney faces a stolen gun possession charge. The 19-year-old woman was not booked in connection with the case.
“The perpetrators in human trafficking cases are reprehensible, and the people they prey on to work for them are victims who are usually struggling in life and simply looking for a way to survive”, NOPD Superintendent Ronal Serpas said in a statement.
Detectives frequently use backpage.com to uncover prostitution. In January, Sgt. Mark Mumme told NoDef the website accounted for 75 out of 200 prostitution leads the NOPD investigated last year.
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