COLUMBIA — Five people were arrested in Columbia on prostitution-related charges Thursday night as the result of a federal effort to combat child sex trafficking.
Operation Cross Country VIII was a weeklong sting by the FBI; its local, state and federal law enforcement partners; and the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children to reduce child prostitution in the U.S., according to a news release Monday from the Columbia Police Department.
None of the 168 children recovered in the sting was from Columbia; all had been forced into prostitution. The FBI's national news release showed 281 adults arrested on state and federal charges however, that number did not include the arrests made in Boone County.
The Columbia arrests were not included in the national news release because there was no indication that those arrested were involved in child sex trafficking. The arrests did come about, though, as a result of Operation Cross Country VIII, Columbia police Sgt. Bob Dochler said.
Five Columbia residents were arrested on prostitution-related charges. Ebonie Brooks-Lewis, 37; Quenten Hurt, 22; and Barry Manthe, 61, were arrested on suspicion of third-degree promoting prostitution. Antionette Clark, 20, and Chelsey Hyde, 19, were arrested on suspicion of prostitution.
Columbia police and the Kansas City FBI division made the arrests between 7 and 11 p.m. Thursday at the Holiday Inn on Port Way after undercover officers made contact in response to an online prostitution ad, according to the Columbia police release.
Bond was set at $500 each for Clark and Hyde and $4,500 each for Brooks-Lewis, Hurt and Manthe.
A person can be charged with third-degree promoting prostitution for promoting prostitution, procuring prostitutes, or being involved in operating or assisting in the operation of a house of prostitution, according to the Missouri Revised Statutes.
Clark, Hyde, Brooks-Lewis and Manthe were released on bond Friday, but Hurt remained in jail on additional charges of possession of a controlled substance and on misdemeanor and felony state warrants, according to the release.
Operation Cross Country VIII is part of the Innocence Lost National Initiative, which is aimed at addressing the problem of child sex trafficking in the U.S. The FBI and those working in cooperation with the FBI as of Monday have recovered nearly 3,600 child sex workers and have obtained 1,450 convictions, according to the FBI news release.
"Targeting and harming America's children through commercial sex trafficking is a heinous crime with serious consequences," FBI Director James B. Comey said in the release. "Every child deserves to be safe and sound. Through targeted measures like Operation Cross Country, we can end the cycle of victimization."
For more information concerning the national operation and for arrests and recoveries made by the FBI state divisions, see the FBI National Press Release on the FBI's website. Contact information for the Kansas City and St. Louis FBI divisions can be found on the state-by-state listings on the FBI website.