Cook County sex trafficking sting results in over 150 arrests

Unsuspecting men were caught in a sex trafficking sting in Cook County as part of a nationwide operation that takes place around the Super Bowl and results in hundreds of arrests.

During the month-long operation, Cook County undercover officers arrested 157 buyers. FOX 32 tagged along for a bust inside a suburban hotel and that day, 11 men were caught.

The suspect and undercover female officer were only in the hotel room for a few seconds before the arrest was made. The man looking for illegal sex was shocked to be busted.  

This is the National Johns Suppression Initiative, a month-long effort to catch and arrest buyers looking for sex. 

“We’re all doing reverse stings,” said Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart. “It’s all operations attempting to go after the Johns as opposed to the prostitutes.”

Sheriff Dart started this effort 11 years ago and timed it around the Super Bowl for good reason. 

“There’s more people looking for prostitution-related services around the Super Bowl,” said Sheriff Dart. “I think most of it is common sense. It tells you that there’s a lot more parties, a lot of people traveling, a lot of people going to venues they might not normally do.” 

This year, 19 law enforcement agencies across the country took part in the sting. 

For Cook County, this bust started online.

The sheriff’s office placed an ad on an escort website to attract buyers. Then the Johns texted an undercover officer and arrived at a suburban hotel near O’Hare Airport.  

The arresting officers wait in a room across the hall, looking for the suspect. They make their move, waiting just outside the door for the sign. 

The arrest is made and the Johns are processed and forced to watch a video. 

“It’s by people who have been involved in this,” said Sheriff Dart. “It talks about their horrific lives that they lead and what got them to this point.” 

The Johns are not criminally charged but face hefty fines, which Dart says seems to be a better deterrent.

It’s a $1,000 vehicle towing fee and a $500 fine. Still, they are given options. 

“We have offered to allow their wives to come and get the car for them or pay the fine,” said Sheriff Dart. “No one has taken us up on having their wives come pick up the car. We found that to be pretty effective.”

One suspect, a man of very few words, agreed to speak without showing his face.

“First time, last time,” said the man. 

Numbers are still coming in for this year’s operation, but the Cook County Sheriff's Office spokesperson says nationwide at least 444 alleged sex buyers were arrested.