COLUMBIA, S.C. (WCBD) — Thirteen individuals have been arrested in connection with a law enforcement operation targeting crimes related to human trafficking and prostitution, according to the State Human Trafficking Task Force.

Seven of those individuals were arrested by the Summerville Police Department on April 20 and charged with prostitution:

  • Ronald N. Ford
  • Oliver A. Paiz-Arias
  • John J. Jones
  • Mario D. Maddox
  • Darren M. White
  • Bruce L. Brisbane
  • Felix Uz Puac

The multi-day sting operation targeted the solicitation of commercial sex in the Lowcountry and Pee Dee regions of the state. Specifically, the operation was conducted around hotels and motels in Summerville, Hardeeville and Florence.

“As the chair of the State Human Trafficking Task Force, I cannot highlight enough the importance of law enforcement partnering to address the complexities of this crime,” Attorney General Alan Wilson said. “By stopping the demand for commercial sex, we want to discourage traffickers who hope to profit by supplying victims.”

Additional charges against the suspects included unlawful carry of a handgun, possession of a firearm by a convicted felon, possession with intent to distribute a schedule II narcotic, distribution of cocaine, and distribution of marijuana. Three firearms were also seized by officers during the arrests.

“I want to speak to victims right now,” Summerville Police Chief Doug Wright said during a news conference. “You can get out of this. You’re being manipulated.”

The Summerville Police Department, Charleston Police Department and Charleston County Sheriff’s Office were among the ten law enforcement agencies involved in the operation.

“SLED and our law enforcement partners continue to take a proactive approach to work crimes related to human trafficking,” Lt. Jade Roy, SLED Human Trafficking Unit said. “We are committed to working with our local, state, and federal partners to thoroughly investigate these crimes.”

To report human trafficking or seek support services, call the National Human Trafficking Hotline at 1-888-373-7888.