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Authorities break up crime ring

Article from www.thespectrum.com

ST. GEORGE - The arrests made Saturday in connection with a prostitution ring concluded several months of investigation by officers with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforce-ment, the St. George Police Department and other federal and local authorities.

A total of 21 illegal immigrants were arrested as a result of the sting operation. Capt. Barry Golding with the Washing-ton County Drug Task Force, said Monday that two females were charged with prostitution, and two males were charged with exploitation.

Miguel Estrada, resident agent in charge for ICE investigations in St. George, said the two men, Francisco Aceves-Bedolla and Silverio Flores-Mendes, allegedly drove two women from Las Vegas to solicit sex. Minerva Valazquez and Margarita Gazpar Vargas were both charged with prostitution. Vargas was also charged with two counts of sex offense with a minor.

"They would mostly come up during the weekends," Estrada said.

Golding said there were seven adult male solicitors and two male juvenile solicitors.

"The juveniles were booked into the juvenile detention center," he said.

Golding said authorities made arrests at three different locations in the St. George area. One arrest took place at a hotel, another at an apartment off Riverside Drive and another at the fairgrounds in Hurricane.

Estrada said the eight other individuals arrested were not necessarily involved with the prostitution ring but were in the area at the time and were found to be illegal immigrants.

Authorities also seized property and cash while making the arrests.

"More that $500 was seized but not more $1,000," Golding said.

All of the people arrested are Mexican nationals.

"The intent is to file charges here and prosecute them," Golding said.

Other agencies involved in the sting operation were the FBI, Adult Probation and Parole, Washington County Drug and Gang Task Force and Utah Highway Patrol.

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