Five prostitutes arrested in downtown West Palm Beach crackdown, police say

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. -- Nine days after Palm Beach County Sheriff's Office deputies arrested seven people for prostitution charges near West Palm Beach, police arrested another five on Saturday for similar offenses.

Undercover West Palm Beach police officers, who posed as "Johns," took five local women to the Palm Beach County Jail after arresting them shortly before midnight for offering sex in exchange for money, according to arrest reports.

The women, whose addresses stretch from Lake Worth to Palm Beach Gardens, offered sex or sex acts for $25 to $35. Officers approached them in the area of Broadway/Dixie Highway near downtown West Palm Beach.

Once the undercover Johns received an offer, they gave an arrest signal to nearby officers, who were electronically monitoring the Johns' conversations with the prostitutes. The undercover sting was part of an effort to curb prostition in West Palm Beach, spokesman Allan Ortman said.

To help stop street prostitution, the city developed special pleas for prostitutes and Johns. The Prostitution Impact Prevention Education plea, or PIPE plea, offers a mitigated jail sentence to offenders who complete a prostitution awareness program and testing for sexually transmitted diseases.

Ortman said the city's efforts have led to a "noted decrease" in prostitution over the last few years.

"The system works," he said.

On June 21, undercover Sheriff's Office deputies arrested five women and two men on prostitution charges.

Those defendants accepted money to have sex with an undercover "John" or arranged for an escort to have sex with one, according to arrest reports. Most of the arrests resulted from an undercover deputy calling an escort service that had posted an ad on an online bulletin board.

The June 21 arrests were made at the Hilton Palm Beach Airport Hotel at 150 Australian Ave., west of West Palm Beach.

Those arrested Saturday in West Palm Beach were: Julia Hammond, 23, of Lake Worth; Angela Knowles, 27, of Palm Beach Gardens; and Vanessa Salomone, 49, Tammy Vorhees, 31, and Stephanie Judd, 41, all of West Palm Beach.

According to Florida statutes, commiting and offering to commit prostitution are second-degree misdemeanors unless the defendant has prior offenses, in which case the crime may be a first-degree misdemeanor.

Hammond has one prior prostitution arrest in Palm Beach County; the case is still pending. Knowles was arrested for prostitution in May and again in June; both cases are still pending, according to public records. She was also found guilty of driving under the influence in 2008.

Salomone was found guilty of solicitation for prostitution in 2006 and of offering to commit prostitution in 2010, 2011 and January 2012, records show. She also has felony convictions for fraudulent use of a credit card and possession of cocaine.

Vorhees' has been found guilty of loitering for prostitution purposes at least three times and guilty of offering to commit prostitution at least three times, records show. She also has multiple felony convictions for drug possession, including cocaine, marijuana and prescription narcotics.

Judd's felony convictions include possession of marijuana, two convictions for possession of cocaine, and battery.


Comments